Baton Rouge, LA — A group of LSU students say it feels like a small part of them was stolen by the school when a photo of them was altered to remove crosses before it was sent in a mass email.
The Painted Posse is a group of devout Tigers fans who are also devout Christians. They honor both passions every Saturday by donning full body paint, which includes a cross above their hearts.
"I knew from the second I was old enough to know that I was going to LSU," said Joel D'Aubin.
"And we all have a passion for LSU football and for Christ. Just being able to be that example every single Saturday is an awesome experience."
The group has become a staple at LSU games since it was formed in 2003. It has been shown on TV during national broadcasts, and members have appeared several times on the websites of ESPN and Sports Illustrated, among others.
"As much fun as that is," said Cameron Cooke of the attention, "it's more fun to see the fact that our savior is represented in the cross."
But that cross was missing from a photo of the group when LSU used it Tuesday in its weekly Geaux-Mail newsletter. (Both the original and altered photos are attached on the bottom of this page.)
In a statement to NBC33, LSU said: "We don't want to imply we are making any religious or political statements, so we air-brushed it out. Only one of the students, who didn't appreciate it (airbrushing the photo) actually contacted us about it. So next time, we'll just chose a different photo."
LSU said that it has the legal right to change the photo based on the release on the back of each fan's ticket.
"Without the cross being there, we're missing part of us," Cooke said. "Matthew (5:14) says 'you are the light of the world, you're a city on a hill that's not to be hidden.' So to take away part of what we represent, take away the cross, is kinda like taking away who we are."
But the Posse says it is not angry at LSU, and does not want to cause any harm.
"We're going to be there game in, game out," D'Aubin said. "We love Christ; we love LSU. No, we don't want anything."
Cooke added, "we'll be back in those same seats on November 3rd for the great Alabama game."