Airbrushed photo upsets LSU students

Published 10:43 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BATON ROUGE (AP) — A photo of four LSU football fans in body paint with crosses emblazoned on their shoulders has sparked a bit of controversy after the university distributed an edited version without the crosses.

Joel D’Aubin, a Mass Communications junior, told the Daily Reveille he was thrilled to see his picture in an e-mail sent campus wide following the Tigers’ 23-21 win over then-No. 3 South Carolina on Oct. 13 until he noticed it had been edited to cover the cross.

D’Aubin, Ben Wallace, Cameron Cooke and AJ Fagan are part of “The Painted Posse,” Christian students who have passed on the tradition of body paint and crosses on the heart for seven football seasons. Most members of the Painted Posse are members of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry or The Refuge.

Email newsletter signup

“We do this because we love LSU football, but we have a greater love for Christ,” D’Aubin said. “It’s cool to be watching ‘Sports Center’ on ESPN, something that’s shown throughout America, and see the cross.”

“Those crosses were airbrushed out. … We don’t want to convey any religious or political message,” said Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Senior Associate Athletics Director Herb Vincent.

D’Aubin suspected the university didn’t want to offend anyone by showing the crosses, but he was curious why the photo wasn’t edited on the university’s Sports website or Facebook page. It was picked up by multiple news outlets that didn’t edit it, D’Aubin said.

The first time D’Aubin saw the edited photo was in the mass email.

It was within the university’s legal rights to manipulate the photo, Vincent said.

When students purchase football tickets, they grant the university the right to use their names and any pictures taken during the game for any university purposes.

LSU Sports Information photographer and biological engineering senior Martin McCallister took the photograph in question.

“As a photographer, I submit a raw .jpeg file, untouched,” he said. “I just submit whatever comes off the camera.”

After photographers submit their shots, Vincent said LSU Athletics commonly edits photos. For example, if a football player’s jersey is wrinkled in a photo LSU Athletics wants to use on the front of a brochure, they’ll edit out the crease.

Some students have created comparison photos they’ve posted on Facebook, and many received numerous comments concerned with the reasoning behind removing the crosses.

In a statement Tuesday, members of the Painted Posse asked the university community to “switch the focus” to the group’s dedication to the university.

“The university has reached out to our group and apologized for this incident,” the statement said. “The following statement should be considered the last such communication from any Posse member regarding the ‘cross airbrushing’ incident.”

The Posse said they will return to the Nov. 3 game against the University of Alabama in full form — crosses included.

“We encourage anyone who would like to honor Jesus Christ to join us by wearing a cross on Nov. 3rd.”