The crowd at Arrowhead Stadium booed Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel throughout the Ravens’ 9-6 win on Sunday, and someone paid for an airplane to fly above the stadium before the game with a banner that called for Cassel to be benched. But some Chiefs fans crossed the line of decency when they cheered after Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata knocked Cassel out of the game with a hard hit in the fourth quarter.
And in the locker room after the game, Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Winston, who was scheduled to visit the Ravens in free agency this past offseason but never got out of Kansas City, ripped Chiefs fans for their actions.
“We are athletes. We are not gladiators,” Winston said, according to The Kansas City Star. “This isn’t the Roman Coliseum. People pay their hard-earned money to come in here. I believe they can boo, they can cheer, they can do whatever they want. … We’re lucky to play this game. It’s hard economic times, and they still pay the money to do this. But when somebody gets hurt … there are long-lasting ramifications to the game we play. I’ve already come to the understanding I probably won’t live as long because I play this game. And that’s OK."
"That’s the choice I’ve made. That’s the choice all of us made,” he continued. “But when you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don’t care who it is, and it just so happened to be Matt Cassel, it’s sickening. It’s 100 percent sickening. I’ve been in some rough times on some rough teams. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life to play football than at that moment right there.”
You will be hard-pressed to find few, if any, reasoned people who will disagree with Winston’s well-worded assessment. I have been, as Tom Brady once put it, lubed up at a sporting event before, but when a player is lying motionless off the turf and later stumbles to the sideline with an apparent concussion, the cheers should stop and the reality should set in that these are people playing -- by their choice, I know -- a violent, dangerous game that pays them handsomely but puts their long-term health at risk.
“For them to cheer for him being hurt, that's just not cool,” Ngata told my colleague Aaron Wilson after the game, a sentiment that fellow Ravens defensive tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu echoed.
Maybe it was the vocal minority that lost its sense of humanity late in another frustrating loss, making all Chiefs fans look bad in the process. But they should ripped after that ugly scene Sunday, and few things are more powerful than when a player does it.
Kudos to Winston for calling out the classless fans who cheered.