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In the aftermath of the nasty end-of-game fight Saturday between the Cincinnati Bearcats and No. 8 Xavier Musketeers, commentators are up in arms themselves. And things got more serious Monday: Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters said, “My office will review this matter to determine whether any criminal charges are appropriate.”
Eight players were suspended in all, four from each college basketball team. Three Cincinnati players got six-game suspensions for their roles in the brawl, including forward Yancy Gates, caught clearly on video throwing a haymaker.
The incident came at the close of the Crosstown Shootout series, a rivalry game that has been played between the two city schools since 1928.
Perhaps adding insult to injury, Xavier players who were involved in the brawl and obviously still amped up were allowed to address the media afterward.
“If somebody put their hands in your face or try to do something to you, where we’re from, you’re going to do something back,” said guard Mark Lyons, who got a two-game suspension. “We’re not going to sit there and get our face beat in by somebody like Yancy Gates. … We won't let that happen.”
Senior Tu Holloway, who was given a one-game suspension, initially sounded as though he wanted to continue the rumble.
“That’s what you’re going to see from Xavier and Cincinnati. We got disrespected a little bit before the game - guys calling us out,” he said. “We’re a tougher team. We’re grown men over here. We got a whole bunch of gangstas in the locker room, not thugs but tough guys on the court. And we went out there and zipped them up at the end of the game. That’s our motto: Zip ‘em up. And that’s what we just did to them.”
But later, Holloway expressed remorse for the brawl. "I really apologize for what took place," Holloway told reporters on Sunday. "We're not thugs; we're not bad kids here at Xavier University. We're all going to get degrees and we're incredible young men so I really apologize for what took place yesterday," he said.
Here are a few takes on the issue from commentators and journalists across the country:
Jackson: Suspensions show both schools went easy
Fox Sports columnist Zac Jackson said six-game suspensions for the more egregious actions of three Cincinnati players doesn't seem to fit the crime.
"Holloway apologized on Sunday for his comments, and reiterated that his 'gangsters' and 'thugs' comment was simply choosing the wrong words in expressing his pride in Xavier's basketball toughness.
It's believable. It would be more believable if Holloway received a game suspension for his postgame comments and at least one more game for his actions during the game and after the fight, when he was celebrating atop the scorer's table — while coach Mack was on the ground, grabbing at Holloway’s jersey and trying to get him off the table.
If Xavier is going to win the way it wants to this season, Holloway has to lead the way. He should know better. He should have been better — during and after the game."
Daugherty: Teams left to pick up the pieces
Sports Illustrated’s Paul Daugherty gave insights into what led to the fisticuffs, not only during the game but a few days before it.
"Holloway readily admitted he might have instigated the fight. With time winding down, he passed the UC bench, openly taunting all within earshot. 'I talked to that whole staff. I said, this is my city. I'm cut from a different cloth. None of them guys on their team is like me. I let the whole staff know none of them was like me.'
The problem started on Thursday. UC sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick, a New Yorker like Holloway, said on local radio that not only was he a better player than Holloway, but so were his mates in the UC backcourt. When asked if he thought Tu could start for the Bearcats, Kilpatrick offered an unequivocal no. The game is always chippy and occasionally incendiary, if not to this extreme. Four miles of interstate separate the two schools. Cincinnati is public and large, with 40,000 students. Xavier is private and small (4,000 students.) UC sees itself as big brother; Xavier sees itself as a cut above."
Medcalf: Xavier, Cincinnati and the issue of race
ESPN’s Myron Medcalf, an African-American, said his first thoughts of the melee were centered on skin color. "Dang, young black men fighting on national TV,” he said.
"I wondered if other African-American viewers had the same reaction. I thought about the social stigmas related to violence within the black community that were supported by the actions of players from both teams, who engaged in a battle royale toward the end of Xavier's 76-53 victory over crosstown rival Cincinnati.
I figured some ignorant folks would push the 'that's what young black men do' stereotypes. And I worried about words like 'thugs' and 'gangs' that the same sort of people threw out on the Internet after the brawl. (When you hear the word 'thug' used to describe an athlete, how often is that athlete something other than black?)"