Another White Riot in Kentucky


Last weekend,†basketball fans rioted in Lexington, Kentucky.

The riot in the streets near the University of Kentucky’s campus saw shots fired and cars, couches, chairs and other furniture set alight.

Pictures of the riot show it to be by white youth — anyone else is hard to find. But the race of those involved has gone uncommented on.

Would any riot involving any other race not see that fact at least mentioned? Not only that, would it be denied by many that it even was a riot?

Back in 1994, there was what does get called a ‘race riot’ in Lexington, following the police shooting of Tony Sullivan during a botched arrest attempt. It involved the damaging of some police cars and some rock throwing, not dissimilar to the weekend’s events.

An eight month FBI investigation after the riot determined that, as police had said at the time, the officer who shot Tony had indeed accidentally discharged his weapon while trying to uncock it. However, few black residents of the housing projects believed this version of the story. Even before a verdict was reached, the younger residents staged several street demonstrations and marches in the strongly segregated city.

Then in 1996, the town was hit by another riot. This was started by the white college population of the town after the famous local basketball team, the Wildcats, won the national championship.

According to news reports, the University campus and the surrounding areas were a disaster the morning after the win in ’96. Citizens who had the misfortune of parking their cars on the streets surrounding campus awoke to find nothing but a burned-out shell where their vehicles sat the night before. Store windows were smashed and buildings had been tagged with spray paint. [Source.]

Professor Sorin A. Matei writes:

Some critics compared the coverage of the 1994 with that of the 1996 events. While the 1994 coverage was inflected by urgency and importance, the critics pointed out, the 1996 events were treated as a ‘boys will be boys’ phenomenon, the tone being one of levity, not gravity. This amplified the suspicions of the black community in the city that their image is differently treated by the local media.

In 2012, the riot was again treated in many quarters as “boys will be boys.” Thousands apparently tuned into the Lexington Police Scanner as a joke, as entertainment. One mainstream sports blog said that the scanner “stole the show.”

Another sports blogger wrote:

“It’s still not so much a riot, but more an uprising in celebration in Lexington.”

Sports blogger Bison Messink insists that the weekend’s events were not a riot, writing:

According to reports, a few cars were turned over by the mobs, a few dozen people were arrested, one man was shot by incidental gunfire (!) and Lexington officials say they put out more than 40 fires. Not a bad night’s work, UK [University of Kentucky].

It certainly did not attract the sort of headline I saw on one, solitary bulletin board:†White Thugs in Lexington, KY Riot, Destroy Property.

Jerry M. Lewis, a professor emeritus of sociology at Kent State University and the author of the book, ‘Sports Fan Violence in North America’, told Fox Sports:

“In America the rioting is typically with young white males, and it’s always after championship play or an important playoff game. Why do they do it? It’s a way they identify with the victory. Fan violence becomes an act of sporting success. They can’t dunk a basketball, but they can be violent, which is a metaphor for athletic success.”

Americans like to point at Britain and its supposed soccer riots. But the fact is that there hasn’t been one for years because the authorities have made a systematic effort to stop them and, more importantly, the culture has changed.

When is white America going to own and start asking questions about its own riots?

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Ladies, the Men of America Would Like You to Shut Up About Sports

Can Trayvon Martinís Killing Spark National Reflection on Prejudice?

Kentucky Advances Religious Freedom Act

Photo credit: CBS News screengrab


John Doucette
John Doucette5 years ago

Katie K.

These are not children. Most of them are legally adults. Maybe if college "kids" started being treated as adults and not into some kind of extended childhood things like this would not happen.

Katie K.
Katie K5 years ago

These childrens mind-sets are on violence and destruction. You see these things all day everyday on TV and in the movies. But I agree if there would have been more black than white things would probably have been dealt with in a different manner. It's a sad world when there are 2 sets of rules for the wealthy and the poor and the white and the black. I live in Kentucky and the Wildcats won the tournament. They should have been dancing and hugging not looting and burning. What a tangle web we weave.

Phil K.
Phil Konigsberg5 years ago

It is a pathetic situation when the final or championship calibre game or event is over that people in the local city that wins goes out into the street and CAUSES A RIOT IN THE STREETS. That is exactly what occurred in Lexington after the Wildcats won the NCAA basketball championship. That has occurred a number of times in Detroit and other cites across this country.

However, Lexington is normally a very hospitable city in most sports related events when it does not involve the local team. I attended the Final Four in 1985 in Rupp Arena and could not get over how friendly the city of Lexington was. That's why it was so surprising to read and see what happened last week.

Perhaps the next time UK is in the finals, the police and other law enforcement will be better prepared to prevent a re-occurnace.

Jonathan Netherton

@Juliet D.: That's exactly what the "stand your ground" laws were billed as being for, even if they were in reality NRA scratch-my-back repayment.

@ Terri: "So why are you so smug about calling it a "white riot" yet you object to something being called a "black riot"? A riot is pretty much a riot. But it is only bad if you mention that blacks are looting and injuring people because after all no one is allowed to mention when blacks commit crime -is that the idea?"

No, the idea is that you have it totally mixed up in your mind. We are saying that the idea is that yes, riots should be riots, but that the media refuses to call riots COMPOSED OF WHITE PEOPLE a riot! You need to turn your poutrager hose off with "because after all no one is allowed to mention when blacks commit crime" - that's the most idiotic tripe I've ever heard. We are saying the opposite -

That EVERYONE should be called out for crime, and that whites that participate in devastating riots are NOT BEING CALLED OUT.

Juliet Defarge
judith sanders5 years ago

Every time students do this the school should have its sports program cancelled until all damage has been paid for, and all participants prosecuted and removed from the school.

Would the stand-your-ground apply if owners tried to protect their property with pepper spray or a shotgun full of rock salt?

Joan Q.
Joan Q5 years ago

Terri Lynn M. is like a deaf person listening to the radio;. She/he can't get it because she/he isn't able to hear the news, poor thing. Crime is crime regardless of the perps' pigmentation. If black kids loot and it's made known by the "press" and others, then when white folks ruin other people's property (burned cars, broken storefront windows, etc.), that needs to be discussed in the same way.

Oh, never mind! You're probably blind as well.

Melody R.
Melody R5 years ago

Those of you griping about so-called "reverse" racism (there is no such thing), you just don't get it. Wake up. No, racism is not okay from any angle, but the difference between white riots and those of other races is that, historically, whites have been the oppressors, and other races have always got the short end of the stick in the US. So anyone who sees this understands that white riots and other such rallies are simply attempts to maintain a racist society, by assuming white supremacy. If you're offended, it's because you're blind to your own white privilege and have no appreciation for the struggles of those outside your race.

Terri Lynn Merritts
Terri M5 years ago

So why are you so smug about calling it a "white riot" yet you object to something being called a "black riot"? A riot is pretty much a riot. But it is only bad if you mention that blacks are looting and injuring people because after all no one is allowed to mention when blacks commit crime -is that the idea?

Charles P.
Charles P5 years ago

A riot is a riot is a riot. nuff said. Punish the guilty. You have their photos.

Paul canning
Paul canning5 years ago

@Steve R

"The "race" of those involved does not deserve to be commented on"

when you have white American rioting on regular occasions - as these sports related riots are - then why shouldn't others question just why this sort of rioting is deemed 'OK' in white culture? Because that is what is BEING SAID.

white rioting OK, black rioting bad. It could not be clearer.