Michigan State University apologizes for showing Hitler on jumbotron at football game

JTA — Michigan State University has apologized after an image of Adolf Hitler was displayed on the school’s video wall during Saturday’s football game against the University of Michigan.

The photo was shown during a pre-match quiz at Spartan Stadium, which came from The Quiz Channel’s YouTube page. The question was where Hitler was born.

The incident comes at a time of heightened fear and tension in the American Jewish community, which is reeling from violence in Israel and the shocking killing of a Jewish community leader in Detroit on Saturday.

“I deeply apologize for the offensive image we displayed on the Spartan Stadium video boards Saturday night,” university athletic director Alan Haller said in a statement Sunday. “I apologize for the pain this has caused our community. Ultimately, it is my responsibility to ensure that everyone who comes into contact with Spartan Athletics feels safe, valued and respected. This image has been damaging to our communities, especially our Jewish community, which is currently experiencing an increase in anti-Semitism, including acts of violence.

Haller said the employee was suspended with pay while the department investigated the incident, adding that his staff’s failure to fully review the video before it was shown Saturday “revealed a failure in our process.”

Michigan State spokesman Matt Larson told the Associated Press that “MSU will not use a third-party source in the future and will implement stricter screening and approval procedures for all videoboard content in the future.”

After Michigan State’s use of the image surfaced online, the owner of the YouTube page responded in a comment on the original video, saying the school had not sought permission to use it.

“To be clear, I was unaware that Michigan State University was using my content for stadium entertainment, and this was unsolicited and unauthorized use,” wrote Floris van Pallandt. “A random historical curiosity question in an inappropriate setting.”

The university’s interim president, Teresa Woodruff, also apologized on Sunday.

“I am deeply saddened by the image displayed at Spartan Stadium that has made many in our community feel alienated and unsafe,” she said, according to the AP. “It was unacceptable. I requested a full review of this university event last night and will take all necessary steps to align our message and actions with our values.”

Haller added that he would reach out to local Jewish community groups so they could “hear directly from me about our failed obligations as well as our promise to improve.” He condemned anti-Semitism and said it was important he worked to regain the trust of the community.

Matthew Berry, a Jewish NBC Sports analyst with a large social media following, was one of many to respond to the incident over the weekend.

“In a world where Jews are killed and tortured every day, Michigan State puts a picture of Hitler on their giant scoreboard as a crazy trivia answer, like he’s a movie star or something. Unbelievable,” Berry wrote to his 1.1 million followers on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter.

In a later post, Berry also noted that the employee allegedly behind the video had been suspended with pay. “In almost any other job, casually posting a picture of Hitler would get you fired immediately. You get paid vacation in the state of Michigan. Unreal,” Berry wrote.

Michigan State lost the game 49-0.

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