SPORTS FAN RIOTS | SPORTS CONFLICT INSTITUTE

Sports Fan Riots
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After Ohio State’s football team won the inaugural College Football Playoff, earning the school its first National Champion since 2002, many fans in Columbus, OH took to the streets in riot-filled celebration and destruction. The fact is that this is a common occurrence among sport fans. When a team wins a championship, or a different ‘big’ game, fans will often riot as a form of celebration. They flip cars, set fires, break windows, and take part in general destruction of property. These are fan riots. The night of January 12th, when Ohio State beat Oregon in the National Championship, Columbus, OH was just another one of these scenes which occur all-too frequently. Surely, as citizens and sports fans, when we take a step back and reflect, we realize that a win (or a loss) should not warrant this type of behavior. Dangerous episodes, violence, and general debauchery should not be the ‘go-to’ for celebrations. Fan riots take away from any good that was achieved through the team winning the game.

Sports and Social

Given recent societal phenomena in the past months (mid-late 2014) – meaning the surge of protests against unwarranted police brutality and discrimination – the internet supplied many interesting analyses on these post-game riots. Questions were asked, and comparisons were made which pitted the Ohio State’s fan riots against the protests, displays, and riots of places like Ferguson, Missouri. One article, by Zak Cheney-Rice, calls attention to how different the types of reactions, from groups such as the police, media, and others, were in the case of the Ohio State fan riots and the times when riots occurred in Ferguson, MO. Cheney-Rice writes in his article the difference in how the scenes are portrayed. While both are riots, the words used to describe them by many media sources have stark differences. For the Ohio State fans, sources use ‘revelers’ and ‘celebrants’ to describe them; in the case of Ferguson, MO, words like ‘rioters’ and ‘thugs’ are used by these same sources. The article’s purpose is to examine the rhetoric between what are largely white and ‘mischievous’ riots (Ohio State fan riots) and what are largely black and ‘dangerous’ riots (Ferguson, MO riots).

Unneeded Riots

Regardless of someone’s stance on the validity of the riots coming from Ferguson, MO – the ones born out of aspirations for social justice and social change – surely we can agree that the riots by sports fans are undoubtedly unneeded and lacking in any significant purpose. Even if you are of the opinion that a riot is never justified, it ought to be clear that rioting due to a sport outcome is even less justified than rioting due to a social justice cause. If this is the case – I can feel somewhat comfortable saying it is in fact the case that fan riots are less justified than those which have aims and aspirations for social change for good – shouldn’t the media be portraying these events in opposite lights? If one type of riot is cast in a more negative life, it ought to be the fan riots. I am not (at the moment) trying to argue for rioting for one cause over another. Rather, I am trying to portray something which just seems off about the way in which we learn about events. When sport fans turn celebrations into ugly, damaging events, we learn about ‘rowdy fans’ which got a bit out of control. When people who feel discriminated against perform similar actions, we learn about ‘dangerous thugs’ rioting and destroying their own neighborhoods. As I said before, it ought to not matter what your opinion is on the events in places such as Ferguson, MO; the fan riots, such as what happened at Ohio State following the National Championship, should not be cast in a more positive or neutral light than their counterparts.

Author: Mitchell Kiefer

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