White Privilege on Display in Post-Super Bowl Riots

“You can riot if you’re white and your team wins, but if you’re Black and being killed, you can’t speak out,” said Hawk Newsome, president of BLM in New York.


Following the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl win over the weekend, die-hard fans took to the streets of Philly to celebrate — leaving in their path a whirlwind of violence and destruction, as well as a question of racial inequality.

Looting, property damage, fires and injuries dominated the riots. Philly.com reported:

“Just before 12:30 a.m., revelers smashed a display window at the Macy’s department store across from City Hall, and looters burst into a Sunoco APlus convenience store at Broad and Catharine Streets, grabbing merchandise and screaming, ‘Everything is free.’

“Fans clambered up light poles, despite the city’s best efforts to keep them off by slathering the fixtures in hydraulic fluid. And by the end of the night, nearly all of the light poles on the east side of City Hall had been toppled.

“Even before that, rowdy fans had flipped a car parked outside the Hyatt at the Bellevue, and officers were called in after three people fell from light poles and lost consciousness at Broad and Arch Streets. The awning of the Ritz-Carlton hotel across from City Hall collapsed under the weight of people seeking a bird’s eye view of the crowds.”

Despite videos posted all over social media depicting absolute chaos and damage, as well as reports of patrons attacking police officers, a representative for the mayor’s office reported there were only three arrests.

According to Philly.com, the event “was a largely peaceful affair,” adding, “Officers hung back and let the public jubilation play out, stepping in only to avert the most unruly behavior and to prevent the beer-fueled masses from injuring themselves.”

This left some people scratching their heads.

“Somehow, it seems there’s a line drawn in the sand where destruction of property because of a sports victory is okay and acceptable in America,” Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter of New York, said in an interview with Newsweek. “However, if you have people who are fighting for their most basic human right, the right to live, they will be condemned.”

Notably, a tweet from a Philadelphia police sergeant garnered some attention: Sgt. Brian Geer said simply that “if everyone would go home that would be great. We have to get some rest to start planning a parade in the morning.”

Meanwhile, in sharp contrast, the riots in Baltimore, Md., following the death of Freddie Gray after sustaining a spinal cord injury while in police custody were handled — and criticized — much differently. As DiversityInc reported at the time of Gray’s funeral in April 2015:

“Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in Baltimore and called out the National Guard; up to 5,000 officers will be available. A weeklong daily curfew has been instated, beginning Tuesday, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. New Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she would send Justice Department officials this week.”

The Baltimore Sun reported that over 200 arrests were made during the riots.

Newsome also drew parallels between Sunday night and what took place in Baltimore.

“You could feel the tension in the air,” he described, having been present in Baltimore at the time.

Baltimore officials had reason to expect chaos in the city, as riots and looting swept the city following the initial news of Gray’s death. But Philadelphia sports fans have a reputation of their own, one not lost on city officials — as demonstrated, for instance, by the city’s need to attempt to keep fans from climbing light poles.

“You can riot if you’re white and your team wins, but if you’re Black and being killed, you can’t speak out,” Newsome said.

BLM of Philly said in a statement:

“It is nothing new to us that hordes of predominantly white fans setting fires, flipping over cars, and destroying property are viewed as ‘rowdy’ and engaged by police in a non-threatening manner, while crowds of predominantly black and brown people blocking traffic, or even holding candle light vigils to protest state violence against black and brown people are met with scores of hostile police and viewed as ‘violent.’”

Twitter users also noted the different responses depending on who is doing the protesting — including Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

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  • I’ve been saying the same thing for a couple days. There has been no nationwide condemnation and outrage on social media over the behavior. There has been no widespread circulation of a meme saying that anyone arrested rioting should lose their food stamps. I didn’t see riot gear on police officers. Philly fans have a history of doing this so it was entirely predictable and expected. Why weren’t the police already in riot gear as they have been before expected civil rights protests in St. Louis and elsewhere? Why weren’t the protestors repeatedly referred to as thugs? No moral outrage against Brady for not shaking the winning QB’s hand as there was against Cam Newton last year. Where was our president in condemning the rioting behavior? Gosh, what’s the difference between the rioters in Philly and those protesting civil rights? Hmm…let me think.

    And my favorite exchange was when texting with a friend who is from Philly. When I pointed out what I saw missing from Philly his response was, “Please don’t do this right now. My team just won their first ever Super Bowl, I don’t want to turn that into a civil rights discussion right now.” Isn’t that the crux of the issue? His white privilege means he can focus on the football victory and never have to consider the civil rights implications of what’s happening before him. I’m white too, but how can anyone ignore the obvious double standards and racisms we’ve seen play out?

  • This is nothing new. I am Detroit and they did the same thing when the Tigers won the world Series I think it was 84.

  • Black people riot. White sports fans have” rowdy celebrations”. The fact that the light poles were greased up, shows the tolerance for criminal celebratory behavior by white fans. Only 3 arrests? Please!

  • Perfect article, thanks for posting it!! There is a fundamental white assumption that Black people rioting, are riots of people we can consider enemies, revolutionaries by people who consider us enemies. Way overblown ignoring years of cooperation and effort from Black citizens. This contrast in approach shows that where the police and white media understand the motivation of crowd exuberance and drinking after the team win, their approach contains more patience and friendly understanding, and varied strategies for control, including patience. I’m not condoning those public destructive actions – but managing crowd exuberance is a task in itself: crowd control after exciting games, was really improved when given special attention and preventive policing in Boston (but then we are so accustomed to winning… we had many times to practice the crowd management….!!!) But there are so many ways to approach a crowd AS IF they are your friends getting carried away, as opposed to seeing them as malevolent enemies and sending helicopters to patrol in advance in case those enemies erupt. The whole approach of wariness and mistrust fuels the frustration, the focus on equipment, National Guard, riot gear, military machines.

    One major way to reduce crowd violence, is to keep providing safe, cleared exit points, and recommending that people take them, move out, thin out the crowd gradually, without police trying to FORCE that to happen on the spot. SOME people will obey and leave and the crowd can thin out. Insisting on forcing obedience on the spot, allows anger, defiance, confusion, people in crowds and noise, don’t hear all the same things at the same time. Allow for natural wish to avoid being caught in the middle of violence, encourage people to leave and make sure exit routes are clear, so many are not blocked in, but have safe ways to exit. And when you give orders, wait a minute, and give them again, in a friendly but firm way. Repeat and appreciate help and goodwill. (I used to drive a city school bus, and often directed traffic when we got stuck in jams). Being alert, friendly, try to empathize with the reason for gatherings, even while managing crowds.

    No need for so much escalation, that could have been avoided with preventive tactics. So much planning acts as if the “worst case scenario” is the most important feature, but the worst case never happens, or is less intense or briefer, if the preventive supports are utilized along the way.

  • Jen, thanks for such reasoned insight. Philadelphia is aka “Stealadelphia”, “Filthadelphia,” and “Killadelphia” because of its thuggish, rowdy residents’ behavior. They WIN the game and still riot?!? If this was a BLM peaceful protest, just the fact that that many Blacks assembled, it would be called a RIOT!

    This permission to white thugs to riot, steal, and destroy public property without any arrests prove that white governors (who call out the armed National Guard at BLM Civil Rights protests) and KKKops are flagrant RACISTS! They should have arrested every one of these thugs as they slid down from the poles.

    They have videotaped evidence of a white thug atop a police van, flipping over and setting cars on fire–no arrests! It proves that white KKKops, like tRump are thugs too. I could only tolerate living in this thuggish city (similar to thuggish, drug-infested sewer cities like Baltimore and Seattle) for a short period– it was like living in a prison. They need a wall and bars around all three of these cities.

  • This story is right on with how Black and Brown people are treated vs. how White people are treated by the police.

    This is racial disparity taken to the limit!

  • Anthony Caruso

    I don’t know why people feel the need to destroy things when their team wins a championship. This type of behavior happens all the time on both professional and college levels. I condemn it and I’ve seen many statements that condemn it as well. There is a difference between rioting after a championship and riots as a result of anger. Not many people are arrested during a championship because they only last the night, people aren’t trying to hurt each other, and people are not burning down buildings. Yes people did stupid things, broke the law, vandalized, stole, and took advantage of the situation. They were not violent or burning down the city. To compare a riot after a championship to a riot as a result of anger is comparing apples and oranges. Typically in every Riot you will not see the police going in right away. They will set a line and stay there while they wait for things to calm down before they take action. A riot after anger lasts more than one night therefore the duration, violence, and arson during an anger riot gives LE the responsibility and time to intervene to stop it. By the very definition of racism the term “White Privilege” is a racist statement. No rioting is acceptable. Stop spreading hate and start coming up solutions. Webster’s Dictionary, definition of racism: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racism

  • Donavan Weathers


  • All rioters need to be shot, whether they are white, black, brown, purple, orange, pink…..

    Here’s a link for an image of white Union soldiers firing at and killing whites rioting in opposition to the Army draft during the Civil War. This occurred in 1863. The rioters in Philly needed to be shot. All rioters, everywhere, anytime, need to be shot.


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