Philadelphia fans destroyed public property, the Eagles players declined the customary invitation to the White House – the 52nd Super Bowl was one for the history books.
The 52nd Super Bowl took place early this month on the 5th of February; a revered event in the American calendar. Pink sang the National Anthem, Justin Timberlake was the half-time show and the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots 41 – 33, walking away with their first Super Bowl win since the championship itself was established in 1967. The euphoria of the Philadelphia fans was justifiable. What was not justifiable, however, was the way the mainstream media chose to cover the fan’s destructive behaviour.
The damage done
In the days leading up to the Super Bowl that saw the Eagles have their home game playoffs, two Eagles fans were arrested in separate incidences for punching police horses. Then came the Super Bowl win. In the hours that followed the Eagle’s victory, fans climbed street poles, smashed the store fronts of shops, overturned cars and lit fires. Bottles were thrown at law enforcement, and fans attempted to bring down lamp posts. Police Commissioner Richard Ross reported that there were also two stabbings, but that officers were unsure whether one of those stabbings was related to the so-called celebrations.
Many media outlets coverage of this destructive behaviour speaks volumes to the power of white privilege . NBC Sports treated the animal cruelty as if it were a laughing matter –
“A horse is a horse, of course, of course. And sometimes a horse gets punched by an Eagles fan”
“It’s unclear what the horse did, if anything, to provoke the alleged assault. The horse was unable to share its side of the story because horses can’t talk”
TMZ Sports managed to sum things up succinctly with this handy little sentence-
“And of course there was a bit of violence ….but that shouldn’t come as a surprise”
CNN saw fit to describe the incident as
‘a funny joke’
Multiple reports used the Philadelphia fans’ infamous reputation as an excuse for the behaviour. The words ‘celebration’, ‘rowdy’, ‘jubilant’, ‘boisterous’ and ‘wild night’ were repeatedly used to describe what was in fact the textbook definition of a riot. Yet, ABC felt it was more like ‘one hell of a victory party’.
ESPN described the evening’s events as the fans simply showing their pride, saying it was
“a party for the ages for city starved for a football championship”.
But how does the media describe the actions of communities who are starved of justice and answers?
Teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson on the 9th of August 2014. Mr Brown was unarmed, and black. After a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Wilson, the community of Ferguson and activists world-wide responded with outrage. Demonstrations and protests continued for weeks and are now considered responsible for gaining national recognition for the Black Lives Matter movement. Police at the demonstrations used rubber bullets and tear gas, a SWAT team was present, dozens of activists were injured and arrested by law enforcement. But in Philadelphia, law enforcements’ idea of preventative action was to smear lamp posts in Crisco to prevent fans from climbing them.
Taking a stand
Since the Reagan administration, it has been customary for the winning Super Bowl team to visit The White House and meet the President. Many Philadelphia Eagles players have already rejected this invitation. Wide receiver Torrey Smith said that President Trump’s attacks on women and minorities have contributed to his decision to not attend, along with fellow teammates LeGarrette Blount, Chris Long and captain Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins has said that he wants improved relationships between law enforcement and communities of colour.
Super Bowl LII has only succeeding in further evidencing the need for racial equality.