Attorney: Holding 'Burn the Couch' Sign 'Not a Criminal Act'
Is someone who holds up a sign at a game responsible for something that then happens in a city four hours away?
It's the question now being asked following a post on the East Lansing police department's official Facebook page Monday, asking for tips to help identify the man who held up the now arguably infamous 'Burn the Couch' sign seen during Saturday's broadcast of the MSU-OSU title game.
The post, which included a screen capture from the Saturday night broadcast of the game, said ELPD was looking to identify the person holding the sign and added that tips can remain anonymous.
East Lansing Police Lieutenant Scott Wrigglesworth would not comment any further on the post, other than to say they were just looking to identify the man.
Mike Nichols, a defense attorney in East Lansing, said he's not even sure what police would charge the man with if they were able to track him down.
"I don't know why ELPD wants to talk to this guy but this is not a criminal act," he said.
It's ultimately a First Amendment issue, and while there are exceptions to what constitutes free speech, Nichols said he doesn't think this is one of those exceptions.
"If this guy gets prosecuted, the ACLU will hopefully be very interested in his defense because a sign that says 'burn the couch' can have so many different meanings," he said.
"I don't think we should take ourselves so seriously that we need to go after people for holding up a sign at a football game."
Michigan State senior Ryan Bertrand echoed Nichols' sentiment.
"It's a little bit of our tradition... it was more just to inspire the camaraderie of the students," Bertrand said. "I don't think it's right for East Lansing or the police department to try to find out who that guy is, absolutely not."
Connor Swanson, a graduate student at Michigan State, said he believed there was a possibility the sign might've encouraged people to behave the way they did.
"Who's to say if it would've happened if he didn't hold it up (the sign)," Swanson said. "I feel like people would've partied, but it wouldn't have been that crazy."