When games give way to violence

Notable sports riots

DETROIT, OCT. 14, 1984

Tigers vs. Padres, Game 5, World Series

After the Tigers beat the Padres for their first World Series title in 16 years, fans set the city ablaze. Beer bottles crashed to the pavement while police on horseback tried to control the madness and put out the trash and car fires surrounding Tiger Stadium. It had all the makings of a modern-day sports riot, and some see it as one of the first of its kind. The enduring image of this destruction is a photo of a man named Bubba Helms proudly raising a pennant in front of a burning, overturned car. Some Tigers fans blame their current title drought on “The Curse of Bubba Helms.”


DENVER, JAN. 31, 1999

Broncos vs. Falcons, Super Bowl XXXIII

Broncos fans poured into the streets after the team won its second consecutive NFL championship. The largest crowd gathered in downtown’s Larimer Square, and when the estimated 1,000 people refused to disperse, police deployed tear gas as they marched down the street. There were no deaths, but the mayhem did result in several arrests, injuries and broken windows.



Lakers vs. Pacers, Game 6, NBA Finals

Lakers fans were given a reason to celebrate after the team won its first title in 12 years with a 4-2 series victory against the Pacers. Of course, four more titles were to come, but fans had no way of knowing. In their euphoria they set cars on fire and threw rocks at lines of police that had been sent to halt the rampage. However, only 12 people were injured and none arrested, making this riot pale in comparison to another a decade later.


Hearts of Oak vs. Asante Kotoko, Premier League match


Perhaps the largest riot in sports history began when Asante fans started throwing bottles and chairs onto the field with less than five minutes to go and their team trailing. Police responded by firing tear gas into the stands and panic ensued, eventually leading to a stampede for the exits. The doors, however, were locked and a day later officials declared at least 126 people dead.

BOSTON, OCT. 21, 2004

Red Sox vs. Yankees, Game 7, ALCS

In punching their ticket to the World Series with a win against their hated rivals, the Red Sox also became the first major league team to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-0. But what started as a peaceful celebration in Kenmore Square quickly became an ugly confrontation with police at Lansdowne Street. College students from nearby schools hurled bottles and yelled obscenities at a Boston police tactical squad that arrived around 1:15 a.m. The officers were armed with pepper-powder guns, and one pellet hit the eye socket of 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove. The Emerson student was pronounced dead the next afternoon.



Lakers vs. Celtics, Game 7, NBA Finals

There was an unusually high buildup to this classic matchup, and both teams lived up to the hype. The Lakers edged their rivals and won their fifth title in 11 seasons. The buildup, the close game and the Lakers’ victory against their longtime rivals all contributed to a disturbance that broke out near Staples Center. Lakers fans set vehicles on fire and 38 people were arrested for “public intoxication, vandalism or inciting a riot.”



Giants vs. Rangers, Game 5, World Series

The mayhem that broke out after the Giants won the World Series got less attention from most news media outlets, but the destruction downtown offered proof of the disturbance. Market Street was hit especially hard, with more than 7,000 fans lighting fires, rocking buses and clogging traffic. Social media had a heyday, disseminating photos, videos and tweets late into the morning.