In an Indianapolis hotel, fans of the Wisconsin Badgers join their NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament finalist for post-game celebration. Following its stunning 71-64 win over the previously undefeated University of Kentucky Wildcats, the team basked in the glory of protecting the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers (32-0) as the most recent team to achieve a perfect season.
Meanwhile, back at the farm…
After the crushing defeat, scores of drunken, angry, and hysterical Kentucky fans stormed onto State Street in Lexington. Setting cars ablaze. Fighting with pedestrians and, in some cases, with police officers. Hurling bottles. And shouting “f… (expletive) Wisconsin”.
Police, armed in riot gear, lined the streets. Firefighters were dispatched to extinguish fires. Rowdy mobs left people assaulted and with facial, head, and other injuries. Broken glass caused a number of foot lacerations. One source cited 29 arrests and at least three transported to area hospitals.
In a Friday pre-game press conference, Kentucky head coach Will Calipari said of his team that its size — 7’0″, 7’0″, 6’10”, 6’6″, and 6’6″ — made the Wildcats “really big”. Calipari, however, discovered on Saturday that all UK’s size simply meant more flesh for hungry Badgers. The realization left some Kentucky fans in utter shock and other fans in a complete frenzy.
Riots are no stranger to fans that support marquee athletics programs. On March 28, fans of the University of Kentucky spilled onto State Street following their team’s 69-61 win over nearby rival, University of Louisville, advancing the Wildcats to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Pictures of that episode made the pages of outlets from Time to the New York Post.
City officials confirm two people have been arrested for disorderly conduct. pic.twitter.com/XzyVg2OrLh
— Paris Lewbel (@PLewbel) April 5, 2015
Kentucky erupts in rioting after NCAA loss (They’re blowing off steam) MSM would call them violent “Thugs” If Black pic.twitter.com/GKPVDluTWv
— R Joseph (@rjoseph7777) April 5, 2015
Away from the action…
The media was beginning to weave its predictable narrative. One sports analyst noted of the UK fans’ riot, “This is what kids do…”
A very different commentary for reactions to a basketball loss than one that propagated the airways after the Ferguson response to what was unquestionably a more serious matter. Namely, the police killing of an unarmed black man.
On Aug. 20, Kevin Sorbo went on a Facebook rant, making inflammatory statements about largely black crowds of Ferguson residents that protested the fatal police shooting of 19-year old Michael Brown. The Hercules actor, political conservative, and professed Christians wrote:
“Ferguson riots have very little to do with the shooting of the young man. It is an excuse to be the losers these animals truly are. It is a tipping point to frustration built up over years of not trying, but blaming everyone else, The Man, for their failures. It’s always someone else’s fault when you give up. Hopefully this is a reminder to the African Americans ( I always thought we just Americans. Oh, well.) that their President the voted in has only made things worse for them, not better.”
Sorbo’s comments resonated in mainstream circles and with some black celebrities that command the American public’s ear. However, a dichotomy emerges when we consider the very different ways in which mob behavior is portrayed and accepted when various population groups are at the center of events.
Why the different treatment…
Media outlets and users on social media echoed sentiments about Ferguson residents that hearkened back to some of America’s most slanderous depictions of blacks. Racist overtures that legitimized slavery, black codes, jim crow, and their de-facto offspring that live even today.
Ironically, a poll of participants in last night’s riots would likely find some who shared in the indictments of Ferguson’s [black] protesters, even while engaging in similar behavior for reasons less deserving. Ferguson protesters remain, to many, the underbelly of America’s ghetto class. As for riots sparked by UK fans, it’s just college kids letting off steam.
Why is it that the American public so venomously castigates black protesters while minimizing the actions of others? Is there a pecking order of precipitating circumstances that finds the death of citizens an irrational cause for protest and the loss of a sporting event a rational cause? Is the turning over of a police car in Ferguson an act of insanity, while the burning of privately-owned vehicles that happened to be in the wrong place following a loss on the hardwood an understandably sane act?
Why it is that so many nodded in the affirmative as Sorbo and others labeled Ferguson residents, only to now view last night’s outbursts in Lexington as harmless indiscretions of heart-broken kids? Does the pursuit of a college degree merit a certain turning of one’s head to property damages and violence?
Perhaps more telling is the cultural critique of rioting and those who riot. The Ferguson riot was a flashpoint. A unique escalation of tensions, not indicative of ordinary life in Ferguson. Prior to the Michael Brown incident, much of the nation knew little of Ferguson, Missouri in-general and even less of black residents who live there.
In contrast, rioting is a regular occurrence in times of sporting successes and disappointments at Kentucky. Crowd antics after UK’s recent victory over in-state rival Louisville Cardinals, advancing the Wildcats to the Elite 8, was the most recent of a long line of such riots. Similarly, riots erupted after the Wildcats toppled the Cardinals in the 2012 Final Four. There again, cars were overturned and torched. Drunken co-eds filled the streets and threw bottles. Fights broke-out and people were injured. Firefighters were summoned to quench fires and police used teargas to restore order.
Such outbursts are not limited to Kentucky fans…
As predictable is the mayhem that follows high-profiled sporting events, so is the tacit public criticism. Incendiary language, on the other hand, is reserved for the marginalized.
Are UK fans that rioted in Lexington animals and [sore] losers? Surely not; just people caught-up in the emotionalism of American sports. Are people that rioted in Ferguson animals and losers? Again, no; just desperate individuals caught-up in the pain of an unarmed man gunned-down by police in broad daylight? A public that accepts the latter proposition as readily as it does the former has taken strides of greater significance than the winner of any athletic competition, even the coveted crowd awaiting the winner of March Madness.
So what do you think?
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