‘Football is back’: Alabama fans rally for ‘football’
On a Saturday in March, Alabama fans gathered in the parking lot of a Birmingham church.
The place was packed, and it was one of the loudest, most energetic sporting events in the state.
It was football season, and there were fans from across the state in the stands, all wearing red Alabama gear.
“I’ve been to a lot of football games and they are always the biggest, loudest and most obnoxious of the bunch,” said Jason Soto, who was in his 20s.
“But this one was the loud, the wildest, the louder than anything else I’ve ever seen.”
The crowd chanted “we love you, we love you” as the Tide beat Oregon on Saturday night.
The game was one-sided in many ways, with Oregon going on to win the game.
But there was something else that made the game so exciting, Soto said.
The crowd’s reaction.
“When you’re standing there with the crowd roaring and the stadium roaring, it was amazing.
They were just so passionate,” Soto told CBC News.
“It was a good time.”
That energy was infectious throughout the stadium, as fans cheered and chanted.
“There’s not a lot I can say about it, but I’ve seen a lot like this in Alabama,” said Tashawn Green, who attended the game with his brother, Austin.
“We’re from a small town and we’ve never seen anything like this.”
Soto was a big Alabama fan before the game, but said he’s never seen a crowd like this before.
“They were all together and it just went crazy.
They had so much energy,” he said.
“This is like a game of football, and you just don’t get this in the States.”
The event was part of a campaign to promote unity among Alabama fans after a racially charged riot in January that left nine people dead in the wake of a police shooting.
Many in the community are frustrated by the racial divide in the country.
“You get the majority of the people in this country, and they have different views and different cultures and different views of race,” said Soto.
“People are upset about what’s going on in the world, and I think that’s part of it.”
“We have a lot to be angry about right now,” said Green.
“These people have gone from being the minority, and now they’re the majority.”
The campaign has garnered support from across Alabama.
“A lot of these people are coming from other places, and that’s the way it should be,” said Alaina Smith, who works for the NAACP in Birmingham.
“For them to be able to see their friends and family, and hear that their brothers and sisters are fighting and going to be here for them, and seeing them all standing together, that’s something we can all relate to.”
The university says it is taking steps to ensure students and staff feel safe.
It said the university will be holding community meetings to discuss safety, and is working with the University of Alabama to address racial and social justice issues.
“All students and faculty at Alabama will be aware of the upcoming events, including the upcoming game, and will be encouraged to take part in a variety of activities to support community unity and unity of purpose,” the university said in a statement.
The University of Florida is also stepping up its support.
The university released a statement saying that “it is the responsibility of all students and their families to live and work within the bounds of the law and to engage in respectful dialogue about issues affecting our diverse community.”
The statement continued, “In the spirit of this, we have created an ‘inclusive’ policy that allows for students and employees to freely engage in free speech and expression in their communities.”
It also said the school is “working to ensure that all students, faculty and staff are safe.”
A statement from the University System of Florida said in part: “As the University has been in contact with the student and faculty leadership in the aftermath of this incident, the University believes that there is no excuse for violence against any member of our community.
We will work with the university community and the community to ensure the safety and security of our students, employees, faculty, students and community members.”