Riots seem to be OK to celebrate a championship, but not to protest injustice

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The Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl 52 Sunday night with a 41-33 win over the New England Patriots. It was the team’s first victory in the big game. The players were elated and many of their fans went crazy.

Literally.

While the players made confetti angels on the turf inside U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, some of their biggest supporters exhibited devilish behavior back home. Eagles fans uprooted street poles, flipped cars, broke windows, tore down the facade of an upscale hotel, looted convenience stores and set fires all in the name of a championship.

In late 2017, activists in St. Louis took to the streets to protest the acquittal of a former police officer on trial for murder. The protests lasted for several weeks. Windows were broken and property was damaged.

In 2014, Ferguson garnered national attention when protests became riots after a grand jury declined to indict a police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown.  Dozens were arrested and injured. Looting and significant property damage took place.

Critics castigated protesters for allowing rioters to dilute their message with violence. They suggested the sound of broken windows blunts the sound of peaceful protest. Do broken windows also blunt championship celebrations?

Why is one group’s protest not viewed the same as another’s celebration?

Whatever the reason, violence is not the answer. It’s not OK to break windows, damage someone else’s property or set fires – and it doesn’t matter if you’re overjoyed or enraged.

Philadelphia isn’t alone when it comes to poor fan behavior. Other major cities have experienced unrest after winning a sports championship. Local governments usually chalk the destruction up to a few bad apples, sweep up the glass and move on.

From the upper echelon of government to grassroots organizations, calls for unity ring out from sea to shining sea. Americans are encouraged to lay aside petty differences and come together in the spirit of respect, love and understanding.

Unity isn’t a magical force, though. It cannot be achieved because someone says so or because a group of people wish it to happen. Unity does not occupy the same space as your favorite song on the radio. Playing it over and over again doesn’t make it move up the charts.

There must be a unifying message, unifying actions and people dedicated to bringing others together, not just those who want the rest of us to acquiesce and assimilate.

Citizens should gleefully celebrate their favorite team winning the title. They should also do it without violence. It is said sports bring people together. Those words need to transform into action.

What we love about our teams should manifest in us as fans. Sports teams consist of people from different backgrounds coming together to pursue something bigger than themselves.

What if we as fans, as citizens of the world, could become a championship team?

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