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22 Jan, 2020 23:02

Internet defends 'Gritty' after Philly Flyers mascot is accused of punching a kid

Internet defends 'Gritty' after Philly Flyers mascot is accused of punching a kid

Gritty, the hairy orange mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers hockey franchise, has been accused of punching a season ticket holder’s 13-year-old son. Rather than condemn the character, the internet has rallied behind the mascot.

The unkempt creature is accused of ruining a perfectly civilized photo session with Chris Greenwell and his son Brandon by getting up and running to punch young Brandon in the back “as hard as he could” as the two tried to walk away. So says the older Greenwell, whose season tickets had gotten the family backstage with the mascot. He admits his son might have “playfully patted” the orange freak on the head, but denies any responsibility for the violence.

It’s not clear what the Greenwells expected from Gritty, whose official biography describes him as having “bully” tendencies and being a “fierce competitor,” having emerged from the bowels of the construction of the Wells Fargo Center, and otherwise being a distillation of all the pugnacious, contrarian, and, well, gritty aspects of Philadelphia. Fans have the option of paying $10 to “get blasted in the face with Grit Powder” when they meet him. It would probably have been weirder for everyone if Gritty didn’t punch the kid. 

However, the disgruntled father claimed a chiropractor diagnosed his son with a back bruise a week after the “incident,” a claim that smelled of future legal action. Greenwell admitted it was not correct of the son “to harmlessly tap him on his head” before accusing Gritty of “assault” by “throwing a full punch at someone with his back turned.” Now the law has become involved, with police probing the “physical assault” born of a “photo shoot with 13 year old white male and Flyers mascot Gritty,” according to a spokesperson. Greenwell threatened to dump his season tickets after 22 years, but claimed not to have hired a lawyer, insisting to local media he wanted just “an apology and something special for his son.”

Flyers owners Comcast Spectacor have denied wrongdoing, pointing out that Greenwell has no proof of any attack but offering to make up for the “bad experience” anyway. Those negotiations proceeded promisingly until Greenwell claimed Gritty took responsibility for the punch – at which point a Comcast Spectacor employee strongly hinted that it was the younger Greenwell who had beaten up Gritty about the head. All this time, Greenwell apparently had the fateful photo as his profile picture.

Gritty’s ferocious defenders were out in force on Twitter on Wednesday.

The life of a Philadelphia mascot isn’t easy. Gritty’s baseball-loving colleague, the Phillie Phanatic, was deemed the “most-sued mascot in the majors” in 2002, while Gritty himself had been on the job for two months when he was assaulted repeatedly by a child during a 2018 ‘Mites on Ice’ game. A post-traumatic stress reaction after being bashed on the head by a 13-year-old boy is wholly understandable.

Gritty has the added baggage of having been pressed into ideological service as an Antifa icon in his first year on the ice. He inspires strong feelings across the board – the Guardian, perhaps the most un-Philadelphia paper in all of mainstream media, called him “toxic masculinity incarnate” when he first entered the arena in September 2018.

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