TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — President Donald Trump’s most recent pair of appearances at major sporting events did not reflect well on his public popularity.
Trump was booed at Game 5 of the World Series when the Washington Nationals hosted the Houston Astros at the end of October. Trump then attended UFC 244 in New York and received a mixed response last weekend.
He was hoping to find some love Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium where the top two teams college football were meeting.
Based on Saturday’s response from the majority of those at the showdown between Alabama and LSU, Trump was in friendly territory.
With 12:10 showing on the first quarter clock during a timeout on the Crimson Tide’s initial drive, President Trump and his wife, Melania, were shown on the stadium jumbotrons. The partisan crowd erupted in an extended applause that left Trump looking somewhat surprised by it’s fervor and duration.
There was an undertow of detractors issuing their displeasure. But the president’s supporters turned the “boos” into a muffled chant of “U.S.A”.
Trump emerged into public view just before kickoff, creating a stir among suite-level patrons near midfield along the visiting sideline as the presidential entourage took their seats.
Trump was possibly hoping to jump-start his re-election campaign in Alabama much like his 2016 election was essentially launched by an campaign rally conducted in Mobile, Alabama.
Despite the changes in tailgate plans and long entry lines created by Trump’s appearance, no one seemed to care when given the chance to show their support during the game.
However before the game, fans said, the opportunity to witness a sitting president of the United States typically would be considered the chance of a lifetime. But Saturday wasn’t just any occasion. There was more important business at hand.
In the minds of many attending the highly anticipated showdown between Alabama and LSU, President Trump’s appearance served as an unnecessary distraction. The commander in chief was trifling with something sacred, creating an awkward dynamic for many fans while disrupting their game day karma.
Where battle lines would typically drawn between Alabama crimson and LSU purple, Trump’s presence flushed to the surface emotions that quietly divided the loyalties among the respective fan bases. Instead, Republican red and Democrat blue become secondary colors of importance.
Regardless of political persuasion, the news of Trump’s plans to attend Bryant-Denny Stadium impacted the already fragile emotions of fans in a paradoxical manner. The importance of the game in the national championship landscape coupled with the political subplot heightened the DEFCON rating.
All of the preparations made in advance of Trump’s arrival created an unfamiliar rhythm to pregame festivities. Normal traffic patterns were altered, protective barriers around the stadium were extended and additional security checkpoints were in place. Those wanting to tailgate had to jump start their activities hours earlier on a frigid morning.
The long-awaited contest has been circled on the calendar as Alabama and LSU were on a collision course to face each other undefeated for the first time since 2011. ESPN’s College GameDay was in town to add to the spectacle, as was SEC Nation.