Embattled president attends big college showdown in Tuscaloosa and sees support outweigh stadium protests
Donald Trump found comfort in the Deep South on Saturday, as college football fans cheered the nations top two teams and him.
The presidents reception at the showdown between Louisiana State and Alabama contrasted with the scene at Game 5 of the World Series in Washington last month, where he was booed, and a mixed response to his appearance at a mixed martial arts fight in New York last weekend.
Sitting one tier above the field, Trump waved as fans turned to look. He smiled, gave thumbs-up a few times and threw a couple of fist bumps as Alabama fans waved red and white pompoms. First lady Melania Trump got an equally enthusiastic welcome.
There was little sign of political sentiment on campus but plenty of bipartisan grumbling about the long lines to get in, due to enhanced security.
An inflatable figure depicting a baby Trump wearing a diaper, seen at protests around the world, made an appearance before being attacked with a knife and deflated. One protester carried a sign that said Roll Tide Impeach 45 referring to Alabamas Crimson Tide nickname. A woman held a signing saying she had sold her ticket and donated the money to the state Democratic party.
There were more pro-Trump signs. One woman wore an oversized red MAGA hat and carried a sign saying: Make BAMA #1 Again. There were flags emblazoned with Trump 2020 and banners that read: Keep America Great Trump 2020.
Presidents have long used sporting events to woo support, but they also give fans a chance to express their own political leanings.
Both loud boos and cheers could be heard as Trump took his seat before the recent pay-per-view UFC title match at Madison Square Garden in New York. That was warmer than the reception he received at the World Series at Nationals Park, when he was roundly booed and became the target of a chant of Lock him up!
In Alabama, where Trump won 63% of the vote in 2016, the campus student government association warned students against being disruptive. It also said their first amendment rights would not be muzzled.
The game came two days after Trumps former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced he would run again for his old Senate seat from Alabama.
Sessions was the first senator to back Trump and worked to champion conservative causes once in power. But the president never forgave him for withdrawing from overseeing the Russia investigation led by former special counsel Robert Mueller, and resorted to abuse and humiliation before firing Sessions in late 2018.
Sessions released a first campaign ad this week which, to widespread amusement, focused on praise for Trump. On Friday, Trump said he would not campaign against Sessions.