Toxic fan culture shouldn’t be “a Philly thing”

A student argues that Philadelphia sports fans need to take accountability for harassment that happens amid celebration and defeats.


When Kayla Savage, a freshman undeclared major, celebrated the Eagles’ National Football Conference Championship win in Center City, she witnessed women climbing the poles experiencing verbal sexual harassment from male fans. Most people in the crowd didn’t react, she said.

“They were yelling, saying, ‘Show your tits!’” Savage said. “It was actually disgusting to be a part of that.” 

Philadelphia sports fans have a reputation for being extremely passionate about their teams. Sports bring people together and foster a sense of community in Philadelphia, but sometimes the passion becomes harassment and gets dismissed as an example of “boys-will-be-boys,” NBC Sports reported

Following the Eagles’ loss in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, fans need to call out the toxic behavior that has infiltrated sports culture when they see it in future celebrations and defeats instead of standing by. When women’s safety is at risk, it’s essential that fans protect each other because the measures currently taken by the National Football League do not extend to Center City gatherings. 

The NFL created a fan code of conduct, which restricts verbal and physical harassment along with other disruptive behaviors, and a video explaining these rules is played at stadiums to help promote a positive fan environment. Additionally, gameday staff and security personnel walk throughout the stadium and parking lots of Lincoln Financial Field to reinforce the code of conduct as a preventive measure against fan harassment.  

Although abusive language or threatening remarks result in ejection from the premises and loss of ticket privileges for future games, these measures do not extend into Philadelphia beyond Lincoln Financial Field’s parking lots. Current NFL protocols cannot prevent dangerous behavior as seen in recent celebrations, and toxic fan behavior can cause serious danger for celebrating fans, especially women.

Being a female football fan can feel isolating because of the team’s culture, said Erin Beltle, a junior political science major and die-hard Eagles fan.

“It can be isolating because it’s like you watch a bunch of men play the sport, and then you watch a bunch of men report on it, you watch a bunch of men celebrate afterwards in violent ways,” Beltle said. 

Female sports fans already experience verbal harassment, but some lives are threatened after games. Upset losses in the NFL lead to a 10 percent increase in the rate of domestic violence by men against their wives and girlfriends, and this rise is larger for more important games, according to the Quarterly Journal for Economics. 

Sports fans need to protect those who are facing harassment at events. If men call out their peers for their actions, they can help ensure more sports fans take accountability for their actions and reduce the number of people who continue to harass women. 

Standing by and watching as fans are harassed, as Savaged witnessed, condones harmful behavior instead of contributing to a safe environment.

Additionally, sports teams need to provide safety resources during celebrations and violent reactions outside of the stadium. 

Teams can post these resources, like the National Sexual Assault and the National Domestic Violence hotlines, on social media. There are also Philadelphia-specific resources, like the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline, the WOAR Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence and Women In Transition. 

It’s good to be passionate about sports, but it’s not okay to get so engulfed in excitement or disappointment that it puts others’ lives at risk. Sports should be about fostering a community, but aggressive behavior isolates individuals who would like to participate. 

Celebrating a win or being upset about a loss is a normal human reaction, but harassing others is not. Both Philadelphia sports organizations and fans need to prioritize the safety of female fans and create stricter policies against sexual harassment.

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