A GoFundMe page has raised several thousand dollars more than the $4,000 needed to bring the balloon to Alabama and set it up, organizers say. The blowup caricature of a scowling, orange-faced president in a safety-pinned diaper has delighted activists since its first incarnation — 20 feet tall and filled with helium — went up for Trump’s trip to the United Kingdom last year.
The blimp will be the latest conspicuous show of opposition to greet the president at a sports event, after long boos at a World Series game and mixed reactions at a UFC match in New York. Donations toward the display hit targets within hours of the fundraiser’s launch, in a testament to Baby Trump’s reliable appeal to the president’s critics.
The fundraiser “just kind of took off,” said Trace Fayard, a 24-year-old Tuscaloosa resident who helped organize the effort to bring Baby Trump to the area of Bryant-Denny Stadium. “I went out to the bar last night and the bartender was talking about it, and it had only been up for 45 minutes.”
The GoFundMe page says extra funds will go toward the Montgomery, Ala.-based Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that aims to combat mass incarceration and racial inequities.
Baby Trump’s debut in London inspired many copycats, while Trump supporters criticized it as petty (former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage called the blimp “the biggest insult to a sitting US President ever”). A website under the name Baby Trump Tour now loans out six giant infants and tracks their appearances at Trump visits around the country, from a Florida rally to a Pennsylvania Shell plant.
Many anticipate a warmer welcome for Trump at Saturday’s football game than at the World Series and the mixed martial arts matchup. The Tigers and the Crimson Tide will face off in a red state that the president won by a large margin in 2016.
“If not for the, at best, lukewarm reaction at those two sporting events, would Trump be traveling to see No. 1 LSU play No. 2 Alabama?” a recent article on AL.com asks. “And at an event where he figures to receive overwhelming cheers?”
But the president’s planned visit has also kicked up controversy. A student government leader at the University of Alabama sought to assure people Wednesday that they wouldn’t face penalties for showing their disapproval this weekend, amid an uproar over a warning that organizations engaging in “disruptive behavior” would lose their block seating for the rest of the season.
“I’ve never once been warned not to be ‘disruptive,’ ” one email recipient wrote on Twitter.
Comments on the GoFundMe page for Tuscaloosa Baby Trump also suggest fans will not be entirely welcoming to a divisive leader.
“I decided I would rather send [my alumni dues] to you to protest this abomination than to send them to [University of Alabama] after allowing this fool to come ruin our big game,” one person wrote.
“I do not want my university used as a political platform and ego boost for 45,” said another, promising to show up “with protest signs and booing loudly.”
Trump supporters, meanwhile, have shared their disappointment with the balloon stunt.
“What a shame that you chose to embarrass the University of Alabama and the president of America instead of focusing on a great game,” on woman messaged Fayard, in a note that he says she also sent to his boss. Fayard’s co-organizer got similar expressions of displeasure.
Fayard said he wants to show people that his home state is not uniformly red. He also wants to convey his dismay at extra stadium security that means fans will need to show up earlier than usual.
“That’s what we’re most upset about, to be honest,” Fayard said.