On February 4th, 2018, Philadelphia erupted into chaos after their Superbowl win. Philly residents, local college students, and Eagles fans took to the streets to celebrate chanting “Fly Eagles, Fly!” and “F*** Tom Brady!” For the most part, the crowd had been peaceful, aside from completely blocking traffic and emergency vehicles.
However, there were an overwhelming amount of incidents that weren’t so peaceful. To record the events, a hashtag on Twitter was formed called #philadelphiapolicescanner.
People uploaded videos, as well as crazy and scary things, heard over Philadelphia’s police scanner Sunday night into Monday morning. These were not limited to Eagles fans smashing a Macy’s window, looting a gas station, and taking kegs over the gate of City Hall, all three recorded on video, but also police scanner reports of stolen police horses, a count of traffic police knocked down and even a report of an ostrich stolen from the zoo by Eagles fans. Yes. This all happened.
What’s even amazing still is that despite everything that had happened, there were only three arrests reported by the Philadelphia Police Department.
In fact, the police reaction had been very passive compared to what is generally expected during the chaos in massive crowds which is usually met with rubber bullets and tear gas if need be.
Police had taken out their riot gear but mostly worked to passively cause the crowd to disperse on their own. They did what police are normally expected to do - which is “keep the peace.” The police even responded peacefully when the crowds through cans and bottles at them by putting on helmets.
In an article about the police by the Philly Inquirer, a police officer named Spitzer had been interviewed about keeping the crowds together: It seems to be under control that the city hasn’t burned to the ground yet,” Spitzer said, despite the growing crowds. “I think they’re handling it pretty well.”
“After a while, you do have to relinquish the street, provided people are being peaceful,” he said. “You’re going to create more havoc trying to [stop them,] and you have to have somewhere for people to go.” On police scanners, it could be heard that the police chief had been telling officers to put on their helmets due to bottles being thrown.
The police chief had sent out a tweet and 9 p.m. that said, “Still going strong in the [Office of Emergency Management]. But, if everyone could go home that would be great,"
Another surprising component had been media’s hesitation to call it a riot. Headlines during and after the crowd had wreaked havoc on the Philly streets, headlines seemed very tame. USA Today’s headline read “Watch Eagles fans celebrate super bowl LII win with the epic party in Philadelphia.
Fox News said, “Super Bowl celebration in Philadelphia turns rowdy after Eagles win a championship. CNN tried their best to highlight the bad parts by saying “Super Bowl celebration in In Super Bowl - happy Philly, party goes on amid reports of scattered vandalism, looting."
BBC was one of the few networks to call the incident a riot in their headline: "Super Bowl: Looting and rioting rock victorious Philadelphia, but even still it seems there’s no consequence in the headline."
Even the Blaze had been brave enough to include rioting in their headline, saying, “BLM Leader says officials’ response to Philly riots is ‘glaring example of white privilege."
While clearly, the headline is bate to promote a strong reaction from its predominantly white readership, they still went as far as to call the incident for what it is. Of course, our strangely woke teen reader, Teen Vogue had been one of the few news outlets to issue a very pointed headline: “Super Bowl LII Destruction in Philadelphia was a white riot.” Which is true not because of those who had partaken in the riot but what the riot was for.
There have been many riots in history but riots are mostly known for their response to oppression from a group of people, e.g. the Stonewall riots with laid the pathway to the LGBT rights we see today and the Haymarket riots that led to fair hours and pay among the working class.
In the last twenty years, we have seen riots as a response to police brutality towards the black community beginning with the Rodney King riots in the 90s all the way to the Baltimore riots in response to the death of Freddie Gray.
However, these riots are viewed very differently by the media and authorities than riots as a result of sports wins and losses.
If we take a look at the Baltimore Riot in 2015, the police response was much more severe and in response to what they supposed would happen. While the riot had been longer and wider, the riot led to almost 500 arrests over the five days of the riot, Maryland had called a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard and curfew had been enacted.
While yes this riot had been longer and there had been a grander scale of damage but if you take this riot and put it to scale with a day-long riot, there’s clearly an imbalance. There was an excessive amount of public property damage and looting in the Baltimore Riot, but considering that the amount of damage had been from one night, it is excessive considering the that the Baltimore Riot had been a response to police brutality and oppression as a community while Philly had been a response to finally winning a sports game.
Some people on social media defended the idea of rioting after a sports game because they view the post-game riots as tradition.
While it’s true there has been a rich history of riots after major sporting events, such as the riot in San Francisco in 2014 over the World Series Giants win and the 1990 Detroit riot after the Detroit Pistons won the NBA Championships. And of course, how can we forget the riots in Chicago that occurred in 1992 that lead to 200 civilians injured and over 1,000 arrests.
But not every major sports teams' win results in a riot. To use Chicago as another example, when Chicago won the World Series for the first time in 108 years, using the logic above, the city should have been in flames. But it wasn’t. The most that happened had been drunken stupidity and fans crowding in Wrigleyville causing traffic jams. No looting, no car tipping, no bottles at police officers.
Here lies the double standard. As we can see from the above headlines, the media seems mostly accepting of the “celebration” as they call it and most wouldn’t call it a riot right away or at all. It was a rowdy celebration gone too far. In the case of authorities take on the situation, they seemed a lot more laid back and accepting events that went on, waiting for the crowd to eventually go home.
Earlier this year, it seemed the NFL had been in the spotlight due to the controversial protest of Colin Kaepernick who took a knee during the national anthem in protest to police brutality, nearly ending his career. Media had been outraged, calling for him to be fired. Even our President called Colin Kaepernick a “son of a B****” in response to his peaceful protest.
Now, the media is accepting rioting as an appropriate and even hilarious response to winning a Superbowl.
Earlier, I mentioned a headline about a thing that a Black Lives Matter Leader said and he said this: Somehow, it seems there's a line drawn in the sand where the destruction of property because of a sports victory is OK and acceptable in America. However, if you have people who are fighting for their most basic human right, the right to live, they will be condemned”
Black Lives Matter New York President, Hawk Newsome, said in an interview with Newsweek. Newsome added that the lack of condemnation of the incident by authority “a glaring example of white privilege."
"You can riot if you're white and your team wins, but if you're black and being killed, you can't speak out,"
On Twitter Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. tweeted a response to Sports AP headline which read “Philadelphia is cleaning up after its late-night street celebrations, where some overzealous fans smashed windows, climbed traffic lights and trashed convenient stores.”
“Privileged language. Imagine the response if this were happening in response to racially motivated police brutality and deemed led by #BlackLivesMatter.”In an earlier tweet, she noted that it had been Trayvon Martin’s birthday on the day of the Philadelphia riots. Trayvon had been fatally shot by George Zimmerman in 2012 because Zimmerman thought he had been trespassing in the neighborhood. King said, “As football fans riot, I am reminded that, in response to the unjust deaths of young Black men like Trayvon Martin (who would have been 23 today), rioting is considered an affront to humanity. Not endorsing violence. Endorsing honest examination of WHY & eradication of racism.”