We've all seen this now-classic image from the Super Regional:
It has been brought to my attention now that multiple writers are pointing to this as an example of the backwardness and offensiveness of LSU fans. First, the proprietor of Corn Nation sent me an email pointing me to a blog that I will not link, and that was the first hint of problems, but I wrote it off as just some crank with an ax to grind about LSU.
Now, I have seen another critical post at Deadspin.
Looking at things from the casual fans' perspective, I can see how the world-at-large is getting confused about the meaning of this sign, because all they see is the sign itself; not the events surrounding it. The surrounding events put the sign in context and make it, frankly, hilarious. Not rude.
To understand it, first you have to at least know what the UC-Irvine coach said about LSU fans in the paper the morning of this game. He said when asked to compare the atmosphere at LSU to the atmosphere at Nebraska, where they had previously played, "It was a sea of red, but they are not a hostile group. They're not on you and they're not rude and they're not vicious and they know the Civil War is over and they know how to act. Now, I don't mean to suggest [that LSU is like this]. I really don't."
The sign appeared at the game later that night. It was designed to mock Coach Gillespie's ignorant comments about LSU fans, not to be a political statement about the historical ramifications of the Civil War. You may notice the casual "2 outta 3" reference to the format of a Super Regional.
Believe it or not, there is rarely a political demonstration relating to the Civil War at LSU sporting events. People seeing the sign at the game would have been very familiar with Gillespie's quote and would have known what the sign referenced. The casual fan from elsewhere in the country, probably not so much.
And I would suggest that if LSU sports fans are on the whole so blatantly racist as to make comments like this sincerely (rather than sarcastically), we probably would not have given UC-Irvine's African-American center fielder a rousing ovation when he recovered from cramps sufficiently enough to return to the game later that night.
To recap that event, UC-Irvine was leading the series 1-0 and leading the game 7-2 when Ollie Linton collapsed near the plate following a pop-out. He had suddenly cramped up and had to be helped off the field. When he trotted from the dugout to his spot in center, he got a loud cheer from the Tiger faithful who appreciated how well he had played in the series to that point.
I would like to re-iterate, at that time, we were down by 5 runs and facing elimination. Things looked bleak for the Tigers, but the fans still showed good sportsmanship. And it was to an African-American opposing player to boot.
Look, I'm not saying LSU fans don't have their plainly racist elements. They certainly do, but this is not an example of it. While there are "elements" within LSU communities that are none-too-fond of the events of the last 160 years, it really is the exception rather than the rule, and such a public display of it as this would not be kindly received.