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Protestors gather at the Triple S store on North Foster before a vigil and after word came down that the two police officers in the Alton Sterling case will not be charged.

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

The LSU athletic department, in an email sent to its 350-plus athletes, communicated its “respect and support” for them to publicly express their opinions regarding the Alton Sterling case, but cautioned the athletes to be mindful of media attention and respectful to others.

The mass email, sent Wednesday afternoon, was obtained by The Advocate from multiple sources. An LSU spokesman declined comment when reached.

In the email, LSU senior associate athletics director Miriam Segar offers counseling for those athletes who need it, encourages them to avoid “potentially violent situations” and insists they not wear LSU gear when expressing their opinion on the matter.

“We know this is a subject that many of you care deeply about and we respect and support your right to speak publicly and express your opinions,” the email reads, before Segar lists an array of suggestions for those who plan to speak or post messages about the Sterling decision.

The Department of Justice on Wednesday announced that it has decided not to charge two white Baton Rouge police officers in the death of Sterling, a black man whose fatal shooting in July was captured on cellphone video. The incident shook the city and incited mostly peaceful protests throughout Baton Rouge.

LSU football coach Ed Orgeron was prepared earlier this week to meet with leaders on the football team when the news broke. Former coach Les Miles did something similar in July after Sterling’s death. 

Several LSU athletes showed support for Sterling in July, most notably star running back Leonard Fournette, who posted a photo of himself wearing a T-shirt with an image of Sterling. 

The university has been prepared for this moment.

The email to LSU’s athletes “assures” them that the university will maintain a “safe learning and working environment," something school president F. King Alexander also reiterated in a statement Wednesday.

"We are committed to helping students withstand societal challenges, supporting them in expressing themselves in a safe manner if they wish to participate in the public dialogue, and developing future leaders who will help avoid situations like the ones of July 2016," Alexander said. 

While the university showed support for its athletes' opinions in the email, it warns that what they “say and do directly impacts how people around the world view LSU.”

“If you choose to express your opinion on this issue, including on social media, we ask that you not wear LSU gear or use LSU branding,” the email reads.

The university expects the Sterling news to be a “very sensitive situation with heavy scrutiny from both local and national media,” the email reads. “Remember that public comments on this topic may be their first and only impression of you.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.