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Officials condemn 'cowardly' and 'despicable' antisemitic messages supporting Ye at Florida-Georgia football game

One message that appeared Saturday at the football game, attended by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, expressed support for Ye's recent antisemitic comments.
TIAA Bank Field before the start of a game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators on Oct. 29, 2022, in Jacksonville, Fla.
TIAA Bank Field before the game Saturday between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators in Jacksonville, Fla.James Gilbert / Getty Images

Florida officials on Sunday condemned multiple antisemitic messages that appeared recently in Jacksonville — with at least one expressing support for antisemitic comments by rapper Ye.

The performer, once known as Kanye West, appears to have inspired multiple public statements in less than a week, backing his controversial remarks.

Video posted on social media shows a flashing antisemitic message that referred to support for Ye's recent comments projected outside TIAA Bank Field stadium in Jacksonville, where the universities of Georgia and Florida football teams squared off Saturday.

The same antisemitic message flashed across at least one other nearby building soon after it appeared at the stadium, another video shows.

An antisemitic message referencing Kanye West was projected on a building in Jacksonville, Fla.
An antisemitic message referring to Ye was projected on a building in Jacksonville, Fla.Obtained by NBC News

Local and federal authorities in Florida on Monday said the projection probably doesn't amount to criminal activity.

The stadium comments did "not include any type of threat and are protected by the First Amendment," according to a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office statement.

"No matter how abhorrent or repulsive, expressing one’s views is protected by the First Amendment and not a crime by itself, but true threats are not protected speech," Jacksonville FBI Special Agent in Charge Sherri E. Onks said in a statement.

"When a threat or actual violence targets someone based on their race, religion, national origin, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability, it meets the criteria of a federal hate crime."  

The message was the same one an antisemitic hate group shared in a banner it hung over a Los Angeles freeway last week: "Kanye is right about the Jews."

A number of people raised their arms in a Nazi salute as they stood behind that banner and another sign that read: “Honk if you know.” A third banner promoted a video platform that streams antisemitic content operated by the Goyim Defense League, a network of antisemitic conspiracy theorists., a nonprofit group dedicated to documenting antisemitic behavior, said the Goyim Defense League was responsible for hanging the banners above Interstate 405.

The Anti-Defamation League of Southern California tweeted that the group was “known for espousing vitriolic #antisemitism and white supremacist ideology.”

Ye's antisemitic comments led various companies to suspend their working relationships with him last week, including Adidas, Gap, the luxury fashion house Balenciaga and the talent agency CAA. He was also locked out of his Twitter account and restricted from posting on Instagram this month after he posted antisemitic messages.

The Florida and Georgia football teams condemned the message at the football game in a joint statement Sunday, as well as others that recently appeared throughout the city, including banners displayed from an overpass on Interstate 10, a local reporter tweeted Friday.

"The University of Florida and the University of Georgia together denounce these and all acts of antisemitism and other forms of hatred and intolerance," the joint statement read. "We are proud to be home to strong and thriving Jewish communities at UGA and UF, and we stand together against hate."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was at Saturday's game, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted.

Jeremy Redfern, deputy press secretary for DeSantis, said in a statement provided to NBC News Monday that the governor "rejects attempts to scapegoat the Jewish community — it has no place in Florida," pointing to various legislation the governor has supported to oppose antisemitism and support Jewish people.

Curry tweeted Sunday: "Jacksonville is a city made better because of its diversity. Those who spread messages of hate, racism and antisemitism will not be able to change the heart of this city or her people. I condemn these cowards and their cowardly messages."

Republican Rep. John Rutherford, who represents Jacksonville in the House, tweeted a statement early Sunday calling the message at the football game "despicable and extremely disappointing."

Jacksonville City Council President Terrance Freeman and Democratic state Rep. Angie Nixon also denounced Saturday's message on Twitter.

The American Jewish Committee condemned the incident and its potential impacts: "Antisemitism like this is horrifying and dangerous for Jews everywhere."

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried referred to the antisemitic banners over the highway in a statement Saturday that urged Floridians: "Do not normalize Antisemitic messages above a freeway, or anywhere else."

TIAA Bank Field is owned by the city of Jacksonville, and a mayoral spokeswoman said words flashed outside the so-called "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" came from a laser and not the stadium's scoreboard operator.

The equipment needed to pull off such a high-tech stunt is readily available to anyone with even nominal lighting skills, said sound and light expert Josh Beaudoin.

This kind of highly portable, laser technology can be found in any dance club or small venue in America.

"Go to a B&H Photo. What you're looking for is more of a deejay, dance club, Guitar Center thing, anywhere that sells custom lighting, performance lighting," Beaudoin said Monday. “It doesn’t take much, man."