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LSU ramps up concern over gymnasts safety

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LSU is taking a closer look at how they protect their gymnasts after a troubling road to start their season at Utah. A large and vocal group of young men were badgering from afar outside the Huntsman Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday and their actions have forced LSU to look at better ways to protect and shield their athletes from potential harm.

"That's the thing is that 99% of the time, it's going to be fine," LSU head coach Jay Clark said while meeting with the media in Baton Rouge on Wednesday. "But that, that one time when that guy, you know, comes down to get an autograph from Monica Seles and you and you don't, you don't know what you want, you don't know. And that's what concerns me."

LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne was the target of the aggressive verbal chants, but at no time were LSU student-athletes in any danger.  Even still the actions have made LSU rethink the way that their gymnasts work around and interact with fans at both home and away venues.

"The irritant to me is a societal one. It's not about Olivia or NIL or, or social media. It's just it's the, I guess, sort of sense of entitlement that some people feel they can behave a certain way. And that what we saw going on out there was behavior that I didn't think was appropriate. That's not normal autograph-seeking behavior, you know, engagement with an athlete with fans and that kind of stuff. There was a mob sense to that scene. That was very disconcerting to me. And that's what I hope is not going to become the norm."

LSU fans in Baton Rouge can expect more restricted access to the gymnasts during home meets in the future. LSU has already eliminated post-meet autograph sessions and may restrict the girls from going into the stands post-meet to meet with their friends and family in order to keep them from any potential harm.

"We want our kids to interact with their fans and enjoy that and be accessible," Clark added. "But when that kind of behavior creeps in, we are forced to make them less accessible and gymnastics has always been built. We built our fan base on being accessible to our fans, and now we're forced into a situation where we begin to wonder how much accessibility we can really give because of a few bad apples and all it takes is one or two to create an environment that feels unsafe and that's where a lot of my frustration is centered."

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