Former President Donald Trump's appearance during the Palmetto Bowl on Nov. 26 rattled students and other members of the Carolina community, as the event brought an unnecessary political presence to college sports.
Politics are incredibly important, and everyone should have well-developed and educated opinions on what is going on in the world. But opinions will always differ in large groups, and there is a time and place for them to be displayed in productive and educational ways. This is why allowing any political or controversial figure to attend a football game could be considered dishonorable on the school's part.
Trump's rumored appearance at the game became a hot topic here in Columbia. People in the Columbia community were open about their opinions on his reputation, including Attorney Jay Bender, who erected a billboard on the Saturday of Trump's arrival, saying, "You lost. You're guilty. Welcome to Columbia, Donald."
Trump was greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos when he stepped onto the field at halftime to make his appearance. Videos have surfaced on social media platforms such as Instagram, X — formally known as Twitter — and Snapchat showing the crowd's mixed reactions within the stadium.
A college football game is a place for students to come together in support of a shared interest — especially here at USC, where football plays a big part in student life and campus culture.
This commotion temporarily diverted attention away from the game itself. Students turned their heads away from the field and toward Trump's seat in the stadium, chanting "USA, USA, USA."
Even as someone who's neither an expert nor a real fan of football, it is safe to say that Williams-Brice Stadium is a place where students can celebrate their school together in a positive and uplifting way. The negative attention that this matter brought impaired the atmosphere of the stadium.
Williams-Brice isn't the first stadium that Trump has made an appearance in. He also attended the Iowa-Iowa State game earlier this year, where he again received a mix of reactions from the crowd.
Trump's appearance could have led to numerous safety risks. Any public figure becomes at risk when they are brought before large crowds of people who potentially dislike them and might want to hurt them or people attending the event. And those in attendance who supported him may want to get close or touch him, which would pose another safety risk.
It is difficult to find a place where people can gather together to celebrate something. A political figure entering this setting disrupts the atmosphere, and it often makes other people uncomfortable.
In 2020, for example, Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy wore a t-shirt that commented on the Black Lives Matter movement, which fans perceived to be a reflection of his political views. It switched the atmosphere from being a light-hearted football game to a conflict-heavy political atmosphere.
While it is essential to respect the rights of public figures to attend events, Trump's appearance created too many disruptions. Conflicting opinions came into a place where they just shouldn't have been. Moving forward, USC should consider the importance of keeping the peace before allowing public figures to attend its events.