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The Latest Kentucky Riot Is Part Of A Long, Destructive Sports Tradition

After Wisconsin upset Kentucky in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament Saturday night, there was a riot near Kentucky’s campus in Lexington. People threw bottles and set fires, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. The police used pepper spray and arrested 31 people. And this wasn’t the first time people in Lexington reacted violently after a big Wildcats game. Last spring, the police arrested dozens of people after riots when Kentucky lost in the national championship game. And they arrested dozens of people in two separate riots in 2012, after Kentucky’s wins in the national semifinal and final.

Those are four of about 50 North American sports riots in the past five decades for which I’ve gathered media-reported data. The database tells a violent history of the aftermath of many sporting events: thousands of people arrested, hundreds injured, more than a dozen killed. The riots occurred in more than a dozen U.S. states and three Canadian provinces, in reaction to sporting events in all four major North American pro sports, plus college football, basketball and hockey. Nearly all the sports riots originated in championship celebrations. Just a handful followed losses for the home team.

I put this together after finding no existing, comprehensive database of these events. Our data isn’t comprehensive, either. Among the limitations: Our Nexis and Google searches might not have turned up all media reports. Different jurisdictions and media outlets might use different thresholds in counting, say, injuries and fires. We often found differing counts for the same incident, and some incident reports did not include information on arrests, injuries and deaths (in those cases, we left the fields below blank). The numbers might have changed for some riots after the last media report about them. And some might not have been reported.

Please let us know by email or in the comments if we’ve missed any.

YEAR CITY TEAM W/L LEAGUE ARRESTS INJURED KILLED
1968 Detroit Tigers W MLB 200
1971 Pittsburgh Pirates W MLB 100
1982 San Francisco 49ers W NFL 80 125
1984 Detroit Tigers W MLB 40 80 1
1984 Manhattan, Kan. Kansas St. W NCAAF 24 >24
1985 San Francisco 49ers W NFL >183
1986 Montreal Canadiens W NHL 28
1986 Manhattan, Kan. Kansas St. W NCAAF <21 1
1989 San Francisco 49ers W NFL ~90
1990 San Francisco 49ers W NFL 14
1990 Detroit Pistons W NBA 141 hundreds 7
1991 Chicago Bulls W NBA >100 2
1992 Chicago Bulls W NBA >1000 ~190
1993 Dallas Cowboys W NFL 26 18
1993 Chicago Bulls W NBA 683 3
1993 Montreal Canadiens W NHL 115 168
1994 Vancouver Canucks L NHL dozens >200
1995 San Francisco 49ers W NFL ~180 3
1996 Chicago Bulls W NBA 650
1996 Denver Avalanche W NHL 15 3
1997 Chicago Bulls W NBA 1
1998 Denver Broncos W NFL 22 60
1999 East Lansing, Mich. Michigan St. L NCAAB 132
2000 Los Angeles Lakers W NBA >11
2001 College Park, Md. Maryland L NCAAB 1
2001 State College, Pa. Penn State L NCAAB 20 3
2002 College Park, Md. Maryland W NCAAB 2
2002 Bloomington, Ind. Indiana L NCAAB 43 40
2002 College Park, Md. Maryland W NCAAB 17 ~24
2002 Saint Paul, Minn. Minnesota W NCAAH 20
2002 Columbus, Ohio Ohio State W NCAAF >50
2003 Oakland Raiders L NFL >84
2004 Boston Patriots W NFL 29 1 1
2004 Boston Red Sox W MLB >14 1
2006 Edmonton Oilers W NHL <400
2008 Montreal Canadiens W NHL 16 0
2008 State College, Pa. Penn State W NCAAF 0 0
2010 Montreal Canadiens W NHL 25 2
2010 San Francisco Giants W MLB >4
2011 Vancouver Canucks L NHL ~100
2012 Lexington, Ky. Kentucky W NCAAB 27
2012 Lexington, Ky. Kentucky W NCAAB dozens ~20 to hospital
2012 San Francisco Giants W MLB 35
2014 Lexington, Ky. Kentucky L NCAAB 31 23
2014 Storrs, Conn. UConn W NCAAB 26
2014 Storrs, Conn. UConn W NCAAB >30
2014 San Francisco Giants W MLB 40 3
2015 Columbus, Ohio Ohio State W NCAAF <10
2015 Lexington, Ky. Kentucky L NCAAB 31 3

Carl Bialik is FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for news.

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