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.
|1984||Manhattan, Kan.||Kansas St.||W||NCAAF||24||>24|
|1986||Manhattan, Kan.||Kansas St.||W||NCAAF||<21||1|
|1999||East Lansing, Mich.||Michigan St.||L||NCAAB||132|
|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||College Park, Md.||Maryland||W||NCAAB||17||~24|
|2002||Saint Paul, Minn.||Minnesota||W||NCAAH||20|
|2002||Columbus, Ohio||Ohio State||W||NCAAF||>50|
|2008||State College, Pa.||Penn State||W||NCAAF||0||0|
|2012||Lexington, Ky.||Kentucky||W||NCAAB||dozens||~20 to hospital|
|2015||Columbus, Ohio||Ohio State||W||NCAAF||<10|