Not all riots are created equal: A response to the Philly Eagles riot

Illustration by Yewei Wang

The Eagles, Philadelphia’s beloved football team, won the Super Bowl for the first time Feb. 4, and chaos ensued after the game. A Slate article documenting the police scanner chatter said people ripped light posts from the ground, climbed highway ramps and flipped cars. There’s also video evidence of an exuberant fan eating horse excrement. Yes, actual horse poop.

This practice is not uncommon. Well, the eating horse poop is, but the rest is standard post-Super Bowl victory behavior. Several news outlets covered the riots in a rather casual fashion. Descriptors like “rowdy,” “victory” and “celebration” were frequently used in stories about the Eagles fans’ debauchery.

The only thing more American than the Super Bowl is vilifying an oppressed minority group committing property damage while turning a blind eye when their White counterparts take part in similar activities in the name of sports.

USA Today conveniently dodged the word riot in their headline, using the much more palatable “disturbances.”

While reading reports about fans allegedly stealing and riding ostriches through the streets are entertaining, one cannot deny there’s a clear and present double-standard here.

A riot, by definition, is a violent public disturbance. So, by definition, the Super Bowl 52 aftermath was indeed a riot. However, the reactions by police and media — particularly conservative outlets — to the the Eagles riots and the Black Lives Matter riots have differed greatly.  

Rewind to last September when, according to  the Huffington Post, Philadelphia Police Union President, John McNesby, called BLM protestors “a pack of rabid animals” for gathering in response to the death of David Jones, who was shot in the back by police. The response to Super Bowl rioters by Philadelphia Police wasn’t nearly as harsh.

“Still going strong in the [Office of Emergency Management]. But, if everyone could go home that would be great,” tweeted Philadelphia Police Sergeant Brian Geer. “We have to get some rest to start planning a parade in the morning.”

While it’s not outright support for the actions of Philly fans, the casual dismissal is soft, opposed to the disdain felt towards Black Lives Matter.

The Black Lives Matter movement is, according to their website, centered around eliminating the state sanctioned racism against the Black community by uniting Black people people from all walks of life.

After the acquittal for George Zimmerman for the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, protests broke out in the streets of Ferguson, resulting in similar property damage. However, this damage was done by a community that is sick and tired of killers of Black bodies not being held accountable for their actions.

Why does this make the Black Lives Matter protesters “animals,” while the Philly fans are portrayed as lovable meatheads?

Seeing the absolute craziness in Philly might be “harmless fun” to some, but to others it’s another reminder of the how much harsher the criticism is for Black people and Black movements.  Whether or not one agrees with the use of riots instead of peaceful protests is not the point.

The point is when a group is made of predominantly Black people around a problem that mostly affects Black people, it’s judged more harshly.

Arianna Coghill, Contributing Writer 

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