An LSU board of supervisors member asked Friday whether the university could explore severing its relationship with Rouses Supermarkets over co-owner Donald Rouse Sr.'s attendance at a protest in Washington D.C. last week that turned violent when some protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol building.
A photo of Rouse with former Rouses personnel director, Steve Galtier, at the rally circulated widely last week after protesters stormed the Capitol in attempt to derail the congressional vote certifying Joe Biden's election as president. Rouse said last week he left the pro-Trump rally before it turned violent, and he condemned the violence.
"I … was shocked and saddened to see it unfold on TV," Rouse said last week. "I condemn the actions of those who unlawfully entered and damaged our hallowed institutions and threatened our public servants."
Rouses and LSU Athletics partnered in a 2019 contract that made Rouses the official and exclusive supermarket of LSU Athletics. Businesses generally pay for those sorts of sponsorships with athletic teams and universities, and the Rouses partnership has given the grocer premium signage and advertising during LSU games and in LSU athletic venues.
The partnership is through LSU Sports Properties, though the amount of money being exchanged between the two is unclear — The Advocate requested a copy of the contract on Friday, but did not receive it. A 2019 news release that announced the partnership said it was a multi-year deal that included Rouses providing catering options for tailgating groups and receiving tickets and other sponsorship perks.
Collis B. Temple Jr. — the former star LSU basketball player and recently appointed Board of Supervisors member — said Friday that it's time for LSU to re-explore that relationship.
“What Rouses says reflects on LSU," Temple said. "What [Donald] Rouse posted on Facebook reflects on LSU.”
Temple had attributed the Facebook post to Donny Rouse, who is the CEO of Rouses. The controversy, however, involves his father, Donald Rouse, Sr., who is retired from day-to-day involvement. Galtier, not Rouse, posted the pictures on social media.
Donny Rouse released a statement Friday in response to Temple's comments about his father's participation in the protest.
"We appreciate that people are engaged enough to speak out and we are listening," Donny Rouse said. "Our relationship with LSU Athletics is just as important to us as our relationship with our customers, team members and the people whose products we sell. We’re actively working within our company at all levels and with every community we serve, to listen, learn and move forward in a positive way. Our efforts will be active, intentional, ongoing and we welcome the continued input from the community and our valued partners like LSU."
Temple brought up the issue at the meeting's end, when he requested to deliver a personal statement that was not listed on the board's agenda. He said that as LSU moves forward with diversity initiatives — including the board's recent approval of an African American studies department and major — the incident involving Rouse needed to be addressed as well.
While Temple said he recognizes that Rouse had a First Amendment right to protest, he also said that actions have consequences. LSU, he said, needs to draw a line in the sand to make it clear that the university does not support "insurrection against the United States."
“The public, which LSU serves, can view that relationship of being two entities of the same worldview," he said. “Silence is generally consent, and we must move forward as it relates to inclusion and diversity in our social fabric."
LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said the university's general counsel will review sponsorship agreements "to determine if those agreements have language that sponsors be reflective of the mission of the university."
It's unclear, though, whether the board that Temple sits on has any power over the agreements, since they are funneled through LSU Sports Properties.
After Temple raised his concerns, LSU board chairman Robert Dampf responded that board members would "take that to heart and act accordingly."
An earlier version of this story failed to note that Temple referred to "Donny Rouse," who is the CEO of Rouses, when it was clear from the context that he was referring to Donald Rouse Sr., the co-owner of the store who is retired and father of the CEO .
Staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.
A Lafayette man who said last week he was among the protestors who stormed the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 was arrested Thursday.