LSU AD Joe Alleva issues apology for crosses removed from photo of Tiger fans

In a letter posted on LSU’s athletic website Wednesday, athletic director Joe Alleva apologized for the decision to edit crosses painted on a group of LSU students out of a recent promotional photo the university sent out.

The altered photo of the “Painted Posse” made national headlines and has earned widespread criticism for LSU. Each of the four young men in the photo had their bodies painted yellow with a purple cross painted near their left shoulders that was edited out.

Alleva said the university would not attempt to edit photos in a similar fashion in the future.

Here is the text of Alleva’s letter regarding the photograph:

“On occasion after a football game, we will send out a promotional email to fans asking for feedback on their experience in Tiger Stadium.  LSU recently gained media attention for a photo that accompanied one of those promotional emails sent after the South Carolina game.

“A photo was used of a group of young men called the “Painted Posse.”  They paint themselves purple and gold and play a significant role in the energy in the student section.  They also paint crosses on their shoulders as an expression of their religious beliefs.

“As a public institution, we are careful not to imply endorsement of any particular religious belief, but a mistake was made in editing the crosses out of the photo before sending it out as part of the promotional photo.

“We apologize for making this edit and in the future we will not make this kind of edit.  This was an error in judgment and we have communicated our apologies to the group of young men represented in the photo whose school spirit is second to none.”

Members of the Painted Posse issued a statement Tuesday asking that people wear crosses Nov. 3, the date of the LSU-Alabama game, though the statement does not specifically ask people to wear crosses to the game.

Alleva’s letter also urges fans to arrive early on campus and to carpool when possible for the Alabama game, and that LSU will continue to fight for what is “best for LSU” in terms of football scheduling.

On Oct. 18 the SEC released its 2013 football schedule, which for LSU includes a road game at Georgia and a home game against Florida, the Tigers’ permanent SEC East opponent. Meanwhile Alabama, which is again likely to be LSU’s chief rival in the SEC West, hosts Tennessee and plays at Kentucky, teams that are currently a combined 0-9 in SEC play.

“We don’t know what SEC scheduling will look like from 2014 and beyond,” Alleva said.  “LSU will always fight for what is best for LSU, but ultimately we are but one vote among 14 in determining what is best for the SEC.”