Philadelphia erupted into rioting in the wake of the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory, and now a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement say the response to the destructive revelry is a display of racism in action.
Thousands of fans took to the streets of downtown Philadelphia after Sunday’s game concluded with a thrilling victory for the Eagles. Fans celebrated the first ever Super Bowl victory for the team and the only the second title for the city of Philadelphia in the last 30 years, and the celebrations quickly turned violent.
As the BBC noted, some of the celebrating fans left a path of destruction, tearing down lamp posts, flipping over a car, and throwing rocks and bottles at police officers. There were also reports of at least one serious injury from someone who fell while attempting to climb a lamp post. Many posted video of the rioting, showing people climbing onto roof awnings and spraying graffiti onto garbage trucks.
But the coverage of the riots sparked quite a bit of controversy. Critics pointed out that a number of media outlets reported almost humorously on the rioting, playing into the reputation of Philadelphia sports fans to be misbehaving and joking about police attempts to repel people from climbing onto lamp posts by coating them with Crisco. Others went out of their way to note that the fans were mostly well-behaved, despite the widespread destruction and clashes with police.
That coverage did not sit well with Hawk Newsome, the president of Black Lives Matter New York. In a statement to Newsweek, Newsome slammed the difference in coverage between the Philadelphia Super Bowl riots with disturbances following high-profile instances of police brutality and killing of unarmed suspects.
“Somehow, it seems there’s a line drawn in the sand where 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,” Newsome told Newsweek.
There was widespread condemnation of the destruction that took place during these racially charged demonstrations, and the Black Lives Matter movement in particular was often blamed for sparking unrest.
Newsome said he saw it as a display of white privilege that the Philadelphia riots were downplayed while demonstrations in minority communities like the protests in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death in police custody were instead sharply criticized.
“You can riot if you’re white and your team wins, but if you’re black and being killed, you can’t speak out,” he added.
Newsome and Black Lives Matter were not the only ones pointing out the difference in coverage for the Philadelphia Super Bowl riot. Many people took to social media on Monday, calling out news outlets that downplayed the riots as drunken revelry.