The Eagles Won Big Sunday Night, and So Did White Privilege

When so many are chanting “Fly Eagles Fly,” I am reminded of the double standards around these celebrations.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Let’s just get this out the way: The Eagles, once pegged as underdogs, are going to the Super Bowl.

I might have cared two years ago, before it began to look as though the National Football League has conspired against a Black player for speaking out about racial injustice. But with former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick still unsigned as a free agent, I’ve boycotted NFL games in solidarity.

Yes, I do believe that politics and sports intertwine in a society where athletes take a knee and our president calls them a “son of a bitch” for it. And I refuse to indulge in the sudden amnesia that’s going around now that Philadelphia has a shot at the championship. I also won’t ignore the apparent sellouts among us who helped secure such a “victory.”

When so many are chanting “Fly Eagles Fly,” I am reminded of the double standards around these celebrations. Crowds of white people, in all of their unapologetic privilege, got publicly drunk, set fires, scaled traffic poles, and disrespected city monuments on Sunday night — and everyone cheered them on. “It’s a Philly thing,” I heard down my newsfeed as people relished in the team’s victory. There had been reports of violence before the game even started, and based on press conferences last week, the police weren’t planning to stop the antics, but merely manage them. In fact, the department seemed to think it was all a bit of a joke:

So thousands of mostly white people got to roam the streets freely without heavy police intervention and basically got to do whatever they wanted all because our city won a game? There’s a long history of this local tolerance of bad behavior from Eagles fans. But honestly, this level of accepted misconduct isn’t a unique “Eagles fan” phenomenon — it’s an acceptance of white privilege.

It’s baffling how public marches and protests that uplift people of color and women can be heavily monitored by police, but widespread mayhem perpetrated by white men isn’t. I have witnessed a small handful of Black and brown activists being followed by multiple police cars and officers on bikes as if they were a large army. And yet I don’t see such zeal in policing when majority white Mummers take over the streets. I also don’t hear much concern over public safety when large crowds of white people partake in multiple days of St. Patrick’s Day drunkenness.

But people of color are never given the same benefit of a doubt, and that matters. It’s hard to celebrate the Eagles victory as a Black Philadelphian because the very injustice that Kaepernick was calling out is happening right now. Regardless of our individual politics, we all can admit that if a quarter of those rowdy Eagles fans had been Black, police presence and aggression would have been doubled at least. Interestingly enough, many of my Black social media followers were warning others to “be safe” and “make it home soon” to avoid the expected targeting they knew would occur if they were around the madness.

Ask yourself whether the city would have embraced a crowd of Black men the same way if the Sixers had made it to the NBA finals? If your answer is no, then ask yourself what exactly are we celebrating for.