University of Utah investigating 2 female students who wore body paint as tops to football game
Police asked students to put on shirts and they complied, university spokesman said
University of Utah police are investigating reports that two female students wore body paint as tops to the Utes football game with Southern Utah University at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday.
Photos of the women showed the body paint appeared to be applied to depict tank tops adorned with a red “U.”
University of Utah spokesman Christopher Nelson said the students will also be referred to the dean of students for “potential noncriminal sanctions.”
According to a statement from the university, “After two women attended the game topless and wearing body paint on their torsos, a female officer asked them to put on their shirts. They complied with the request.”
One fan, YouTube influencer Melea Johnson, posted on Instagram that security personnel allowed “2 TOPLESS GIRLS” to enter the stadium gate. The “security guards just stared and let them walk by ... no one did anything. Is this literally what our world is coming to?”
Johnson told the Deseret News she and her husband saw the girls as they were approaching the same stadium entrance.
“Our first reaction is to create like a wall or shield in front of our children so they can’t see it. We don’t know if they’re going to turn around. We don’t know what’s going on. As we’re watching this situation, I keep thinking, ‘OK, they’ve got to stop them, right? Like they’re not going to scan their tickets.’ And then they scan the tickets. They start letting them in. There’s a police officer standing there and I think ‘There’s no way he’s gonna let them in.’ And they just walked right past him,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who has had season tickets to U. football for 20 years, said she and her husband were excited to take their children, ages 10 and 13, to their first game.
But the experience soured after they saw the two young women, she said.
“No. 1, it’s against the law. It’s the lewdness against minors issue, against Utah Criminal Code. Also, it’s just not appropriate for a Utah game. That’s my biggest concern,” she said.
The paint on the young women’s backs was applied in a “very haphazard” manner, Johnson said.
“When they turned to the side, I could see a nipple so I don’t know if these pasties they’re claiming they had were see-through or not going on right or I have no idea. All I know is that my issue with this and why I created such a stink about it is because it involves children and it happened in front of my children and other people’s children. It’s against the law, and nothing was done,” she said.
The university asks fans to voluntarily sign its FanUp pledge that calls for “promoting a family-friendly experience.”
It further states, “The safety of the student-athletes and the spectators is our top priority. Spectators are reminded that anyone engaged in unsafe or inappropriate conduct is subject to immediate ejection from the premises. FanUP and make us Ute Proud!”
The pledge also states that “profanity, racial or sexist comments, and any other acts of intimidation directed at officials, student-athletes, coaches, visiting fans or team representatives will not be tolerated and are grounds for removal from the site of competition.”
In a letter to Ute football fans, University of Utah President Taylor Randall and athletics director Mark Harlan wrote, “Anyone who engages in unsafe or inappropriate conduct will be removed from the premises, may lose all privileges and access for future university events and could be reported to law enforcement.”
The letter encourages fans to help “identify and call-out inappropriate behavior so that our event staff can ensure a safe and great experience for our student-athletes, coaches, staff and spectators.
“If you see something, say something!”
A statement released by Johnson, said in part:
“As a Christian mother, I felt like I needed to create awareness of this issue so a permanent change is made to the university’s policy immediately.
“Mothers need safe places for their children to attend without fear they will see something lewd or involving nudity of any kind … visuals that are typically only deemed appropriate for those over age 18.
“We love going to the Utah football games! But this should not have happened. And should never be allowed to happen again.
“I am happy to hear that there is currently an active investigation happening to make sure this is not allowed again and the University of Utah is taking this matter seriously.”
Utah State Code is silent on whether body paint is considered a body covering, but several sections define nudity or partial nudity to mean “any state of dress or undress in which the human genitals, pubic region, buttocks, or the female breast, at a point below the top of the areola, is less than completely and opaquely covered.”
Utah law carves out an exception for breastfeeding “in any location where the woman otherwise may rightfully be, does not under any circumstance constitute a lewd act, irrespective of whether or not the breast is covered during or incidental to feeding,” according to state code.
In 2019, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a city ordinance in Fort Collins, Colorado that banned women from going topless infringed on their rights to equal protection because men are allowed to openly show their chests. The court issued an injunction, stopping the ordinance in Fort Collins from being enforced. The city council later repealed the ordinance.
The 10th Circuit has jurisdiction over federal cases from Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma, but then-Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter advised that the ruling did not automatically invalidate local and state laws.
“The 10th Circuit’s preliminary decision in the Fort Collins case — a case that has now ended without a full adjudication — does not change local and state laws in Oklahoma on the subject,” Hunter said in a statement.
“The majority of courts around the country that have examined this issue have upheld traditional public decency and public nudity laws. These courts have recognized that states and political subdivisions have a legitimate interest in prohibiting public nudity as traditionally defined.”