There will be more than one VIP at Saturday’s football game between the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University.
Four blocks from the Tuscaloosa, Ala., stadium set to host President Donald Trump, the familiar face of what activists call a “Very Important Protester” — the mocking “Trump Baby” balloon that’s met POTUS around the globe — will glower above the festivities.
A GoFundMe page has raised several thousand dollars more than the $4,000 needed to bring the balloon to Alabama and set it up, organizers say. The blowup caricature of a scowling, orange-faced president in safety-pinned diapers has delighted activists since its first incarnation — 20 feet tall and filled with helium — went up for Trump’s UK trip last summer.
The blimp will be the latest, conspicuous show of opposition to greet the president at a sports event, after long boos at a World Series game and mixed reactions at a UFC match in New York. Donations toward the display hit targets within hours of the fundraiser’s launch, in a testament to Baby Trump’s reliable appeal to the president’s critics.
“WE DID IT!!!” tweeted Birmingham resident Nic Gulas, who helped organize the effort to bring the blimp to the area of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Gulas is an alum of the University of Alabama, according to The Hill.
The GoFundMe page says extra funds will go toward the Montgomery, Ala.-based Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that aims to combat mass incarceration and racial inequities.
Baby Trump’s debut in London inspired many copycats, while Trump supporters criticized it as petty (former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage called the blimp “the biggest insult to a sitting U.S. President ever”). A website under the name Baby Trump Tour now loans out six giant infants and tracks their appearances at Trump visits around the country, from a Florida rally to a Pennsylvania Shell plant.
Many anticipate a warmer welcome for Trump at Saturday’s football game than at the recent World Series and mixed martial arts match ups. The Tigers and the Crimson Tide will face off in a red state that the president won by big margins in 2016.
“If not for the, at best, lukewarm reaction at those two sporting events, would Trump be traveling to see No. 1 LSU play No. 2 Alabama?” a recent article on AL.com asks. “And at an event where he figures to receive overwhelming cheers?”
But the president’s planned visit has also kicked up controversy. A student government leader at University of Alabama sought to assure people Wednesday that they wouldn’t face penalties for showing their disapproval this weekend, amid an uproar over a warning that organizations engaging in “disruptive behavior” would lose their block seating for the rest of the season.
“I’ve never once been warned not to be ‘disruptive,’ “ one email recipient wrote on Twitter.
Comments on the GoFundMe page for Tuscaloosa Baby Trump also suggest that fans will not be entirely welcoming to a divisive leader.
“I decided I would rather send them to you to protest this abomination than to send them to (University of Alabama) after allowing this fool to come ruin our big game,” one person wrote.
“I do not want my university used as a political platform and ego boost for 45,” another said, promising to show up with “with protest signs and booing loudly.”