No Place for 'Gangsta' Mentality in Sports

An insidious mindset fueled the brawl that marred the Xavier-Cincinnati basketball game.

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Tu Holloway (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

After embarrassing his university Saturday by helping to spark an ugly, game-ending brawl against crosstown rival University of Cincinnati, Tu Holloway wasn't done. The senior guard and All-America candidate for Xavier continued to act like a knucklehead during a postgame news conference.

"That's what you're going to see from Xavier and Cincinnati," Holloway said nonchalantly. "We got disrespected a little bit before the game, guys calling us out. 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. We went out there and zipped 'em up at the end of the game."

No, what they did was disgrace themselves and their families while highlighting a dangerous and pervasive philosophy, particularly among many African-American young men.

On the streets, that mindset can lead to the graveyard or the prison yard. On the court, it can lead to being knocked down by a sucker punch and kicked in the head once you're on the floor. That's what happened to Xavier center Kenny Frease, who appeared to be on a peacemaking mission when he was coldcocked by Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates.

Though criminal justice is rarely appropriate for events within athletics -- and this case is no exception -- Gates and other participants might face criminal charges. They certainly got off far too easily otherwise, since each school gave four players suspensions ranging from one to six games.

The schools are only four miles apart and have played every year since 1945 in a heated rivalry known as the "Crosstown Shootout." But these are college basketball teams we're talking about, not lawless street gangs. It's supposed to be a competition between student athletes, not felons-in-waiting.

Holloway was upset entering the game because he had been "dissed" by a Cincinnati player on the radio earlier that week. He responded with a total lack of class by trash-talking the entire Cincinnati bench -- including the coaching staff -- throughout the game.

On Monday, Gates issued a tearful apology for his actions, stating that "my parents didn't raise me like that." A day earlier, Holloway backed away from his earlier tough-guy stance. "We're not thugs. We're not bad kids here at Xavier University," he said. "We're all going to get degrees and be incredible young men."

Unfortunately, their apologies are late and won't receive nearly the publicity. Unfortunately, their actions are immortalized on YouTube and feed into every negative stereotype of violent black men. Unfortunately, their example is a model for countless knuckleheads who think being "dissed" gives them license to maim (and even kill).

Combating that poisonous philosophy is hard enough in the streets.