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LSU emails student-athletes urging caution in reaction to Alton Sterling decision

Sterling was killed by police in 2016.

McNeese State v LSU Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The United States Justice Department announced Wednesday that it will not bring charges against the officers who killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., on July 5, 2016, citing insufficient evidence.

From here, the case is in the hands of the Louisiana attorney general's office, Louisiana Justice Department, and the Louisiana State Police.

In the wake of the announcement, LSU’s Senior Associate Athletic Director, Miriam Segar, sent an email to all of its student-athletes with the subject heading “A Message from LSU Athletics,” which SB Nation has obtained. It reads:

I hope this message finds you well. This afternoon, the US Department of Justice announced that the Alton Sterling case will not be prosecuted by federal authorities. As members of the Athletics community, we want to support each of you and assure you that the University will maintain a safe learning and working environment for us all.

If there is anything you need, please communicate with us. Also please know that if you need to talk at any time, we have counselors available at [redacted].

We know this is a subject that many of you care deeply about and we respect and support your right to speak publicly and express your opinions.

If you choose to express your opinions publicly, please remember the following:

As student-athletes, you are some of LSU’s most visible ambassadors. Many of you enjoy a large following and with that comes responsibility. Remember that what you say and do directly impacts how people around the world view LSU.

IMPORTANT: If you choose to express your opinion on this issue, including on social media, we ask that you do not wear LSU gear or use LSU branding.

Show respect for your teammates and your coaches with what you say. Understand they may have different views than your own and many have personal connections and feelings about this case. Lean on and support each other as a team.

We expect this to be a very sensitive situation with heavy scrutiny from both local and national media. Remember that public comments on this topic may be their first and only impression of you.

Your safety is our biggest priority. Please avoid potentially violent situations and report any concerns to police (911, or 578-3231 for LSUPD).

A source told SB Nation that all athletics association staff “received a version of the email.”

The directive likely came from an understanding of the emotionally charged nature of the incident. The specific call for student-athletes to not wear LSU-branded gear when responding to the news on social media is a preemptive strike against players who might speak out against the decision while seemingly representing the university.

Two days after Sterling’s death, former running back Leonard Fournette, one of the most popular players to wear the purple and gold in the program’s recent history, tweeted this picture of a T-shirt with Sterling’s face on it.

With the expectation of similar statements on social media, the school attempted to get out in front of them with targeted language.

LSU’s Chancellor F. King Alexander issued a statement to the wider student body Wednesday, calling for calm in the wake of the announcement. The email, also obtained by SB Nation, reads in part:

“The University will maintain a safe learning and working environment for our students, faculty, and staff. Campus safety is a priority.

“We are committed to helping students understand societal challenges, supporting them in expressing themselves in a safe manner if they wish to participate in the public dialogue, and developing future leaders who will help avoid situations like the ones of July 2016.”

There were protests throughout Baton Rouge in the wake of Sterling’s death, and more scheduled for the night of the announcement.

Myra Richardson, an organizer with The Wave, a youth-led organization in Baton Rouge, said following the Justice Department’s decision not to indict Sterling's killers that the protests are “life-saving” and that she and others have no intent to stop until justice is served.

“The course of events we’ve seen here in Louisiana since Alton Sterling’s death are representative of the longstanding history of violence that is sanctioned by the state and mistrust in the police,” Richardson said. “Knowing that we will never get closure for Alton Sterling’s family and that his killers remain employed and paid by taxpayers is the real injustice.”