FARGO — A few North Dakota State students held up a sign reading "Let's Go Brandon" at the Bison football game Saturday at the Fargodome, which had some politically informed fans upset enough to contact me about it.

The sign was briefly shown on the dome's large video boards, which elicited a cheer from some fans.

A couple of fans messaged me about the sign, one saying he was "disgusted."

To which my initial thought was: I don't know why holding up a sign encouraging a player is rubbing some people the wrong way.

The Bison, after all, have a center named Brandon Westberg who has started the last three games in place of the injured Jalen Sundell. "Let's Go Brandon," I figured, must've been in support of Westberg, a sophomore from Cambridge, Minn.

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And it might've been exactly that.

But it turns out "Let's Go Brandon" has a much different meaning in Republican political circles. It's a euphemism meant as a crude vulgarity toward Democratic President Joe Biden, one that's quickly gaining steam in conservative media, social media and even among established politicians.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was recently photographed holding up a T-shirt reading "Let's Go Brandon."

A Florida member of the U.S. House of Representatives recently ended a floor speech by saying "Let's go, Brandon!"

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is shown holding up a "Let's Go Brandon" T-shirt with South Dakota businessman and Noem supporter Terry Schultz at a recent event. Photo from Terry Schultz's Twitter feed
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is shown holding up a "Let's Go Brandon" T-shirt with South Dakota businessman and Noem supporter Terry Schultz at a recent event. Photo from Terry Schultz's Twitter feed

The phrase, cleaned up for a PG-rated newspaper and website, means "(Expletive) Joe Biden."

The expletive contains four letters.

To understand why a phrase that appears to cheer for a person became a nasty invective toward a Democratic president needs an explanation.

It became a thing in early October when a NASCAR driver named Brandon Brown won a race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. During a live TV interview, fans behind Brown and NBC reporter Kelli Stavast began chanting "(Expletive) Joe Biden!"

Stavast, either mishearing what the fans were chanting or in an attempt to clean up their vulgarity, said they were saying, "Let's go, Brandon!" Stavast hasn't explained her comment.

Stavast's words were quickly picked up by right-wing media and social media as both an example of mainstream media lying and as a convenient — and, in their minds, clever — way to say "(Expletive) Joe Biden" without saying "(Expletive) Joe Biden."

So "Let's Go Brandon" became the substitute, with many in conservative circles knowing its meaning.

Fargodome general manager Rob Sobolik said he was made aware of the sign and has spoken with both NDSU's athletic department and the dome's video crew.

"We'll take steps to make sure something like that doesn't happen again," he said.

Now, of course, there is always the chance the sign in the student section at the Bison game was simply meant as encouragement for NDSU's young starting center.

But as one person wrote me, "given the immediate gleeful reaction from a fair subset of the crowd along with the amount of conservative talking heads and public figures using 'Let's Go Brandon,' I am fairly sure that Brandon Westberg wasn't who was being rooted on."

Seems right. And if that's the case, it's a pathetic commentary on the NDSU students who would display the sign and those who would cheer them.

It's an even more pathetic commentary on the state of our national political discourse.