"... are initiating a review of stadium policies with the goal of ensuring that symbols of this type are not displayed in our stadium again."
A letter from UW chancellor Rebecca Blank and UW athletic director Barry Alvarez, about the costume at Saturday night's football game. We talked about that the other day in my post titled, "Was that a 'racist' costume at the University of Wisconsin football game last night?" I approved of the way the incident was treated at the time: By respecting free speech and simply using more speech to reason with the costume-wearer and persuade him to voluntarily remove the noose from his neck.
The man was wearing a Hillary Clinton mask and another man, in a Trump mask, was pulling Hillary along. But the man in the Hillary mask also had an Obama mask on the back of his head, and a photo was taken from the back, so what you saw was Obama in a noose, an image people associated with the history of lynching black people in America. Seen from the front, with Hillary in the noose, the American history association might be with hangings in effigy that were standard political street protest in the Revolutionary War era.
This new letter, however, shows the campus authorities revealing that they want to make a rule that would exclude symbolic speech precisely because of the viewpoint. That is, they are flaunting their intent to violate freedom of speech. They're not even pretending that the rule would be viewpoint neutral. I could imagine a rule against rope premised on some theory that rope is some sort of safety or crowd-control problem. We still might smoke out the intent to suppress a particular political viewpoint. But here, the university seems to want credit for censoring the message they don't like.
Perhaps they don't care what a court might say about freedom of speech, and it's all only about expressing their own message that they are doing something about a problem they feel pressure to solve. But even if they don't mind losing in court or they're hoping that their rule is never challenged in court, they should want to express the message that freedom of speech matters, including speech that utilizes props — like ropes and flags.
(I say flags because of the most important Supreme Court case on the subject, which recognized the free-speech right to burn the U.S. flag to express an opinion. Here, read it yourself. It's written by the liberal hero William Brennan and joined by the conservative hero Antonin Scalia.)