It's the story that's now caught international attention. Kansas City Chiefs tackle Eric Winston ripped into hometown fans Sunday for cheering when their own quarterback Matt Cassel was knocked unconscious and left the game with a concussion.
Chiefs fans have been calling for Cassel to be benched for several weeks, and certainly have been dissatisfied with his performance for the past couple of years, ESPN said.
He was booed during a celebrity softball game across the parking lot at Kauffman Stadium during Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities.
It even got to the point that Chiefs Planet members, a Chiefs message board, even hired a plane to fly over Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday with a banner carrying the words: "WE DESERVE BETTER! FIRE PIOLI - BENCH CASSEL!'
Talked to the guy there and he is a Chiefs fan as well. He said that the cost to fly the banner at the game for an hour is normally $725 but he would drop it down to $625 because he believes we are doing God's work.
The money was raised in less than an hour, the Kansas City Star reported.
Before Cassel was injured in the fourth quarter, fans showed and voiced their displeasure with the Chiefs quarterback as he came back on the field in the third quarter Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
But the angst reached a tipping point when Cassel, who committed three turnovers against Baltimore, was hammered by the Ravens' Haloti Ngata while completing a pass in the fourth quarter, ESPN said.
Cassel remained on his back for several minutes while fans began to cheer. "Stay down!Stay down!"
He eventually got to his feet with some help and walked off the field under his own power.
Even the Ravens thought the cheering was uncouth.
"For them to cheer for him being hurt," Ngata said, "that's just not cool."
It’s sickening. And I was embarrassed
If the opposing team thought the cheering wasn't cool, is it any wonder why after the Chiefs’ 9-6 loss to the Ravens Sunday, Winston assembled a member from every media outlet in the city at his locker for an impromptu press conference?
He said the following words, via NBC Sports:
“We are athletes, OK? We are athletes. We are not gladiators. This is not the Roman Coliseum. People pay their hard-earned money when they come in here and I believe they can boo, they can cheer and they can do whatever they want, I believe that. We are lucky to play this game. People, it’s hard to 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, long lasting ramifications to the game we play. I’ve already kinda come to the understanding that I won’t live as long because I play this game and that’s OK, that’s a choice I’ve made and a choice all of us have made.
“But when you cheer, 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 more embarrassed in my life to play football than in that moment right there. (Full speech below)“I get emotional about it because these guys, they work their butts off. Matt Cassel hasn’t done anything to you people, hasn’t done anything to you people. Hasn’t done anything to the media writers that kill him, hasn’t done anything wrong to the people that come out here and cheer him. Hey, if he’s not the best quarterback then he’s not the best quarterback and that’s OK. But he’s a person. And he got knocked out in a game and we have 70,000 people cheering that he got knocked out?
“Boo him all you want. Boo me all you want. Throw me under the bus. Tell me I’m doing a bad job. Say I gotta protect him more. Do whatever you want. Say whatever you want. But if you are one of those people, one of those people that were out there cheering or even smiled when he got knocked out, I just want to let you know, and I want everybody to know that I think it’s sickening and disgusting. We are not gladiators and this is not the Roman Coliseum. This is a game.
“I’ll sit here and I’ll answer all your questions for the next 30 minutes if you want to ask them and I’ll take all the responsibility I can take because I deserve it but don’t blame a guy, and don’t cheer for a guy who has done everything in his power to play as good as he can for the fans.
“It’s sickening. And I was embarrassed. I want every single one of you people to put this on your station and in your newspapers because I want every fan to know that. This is a game that’s going to cost us a lot down the road. That’s OK. We picked it, we deserve it and I don’t want your pity. But we have a lot of problems as a society if people think that’s OK.
“I’ll get off my soap box and you guys can ask any football question you want.”I stand by what I have said
A day later, Winston stood by the criticism that he leveled at those fans cheering Cassel's injury.
“I meant what I said. I didn't say it off the cuff,” Winston said, via the the Kansas City Star's Adam Teicher (by way of PFT). “I look back on it, and I'm happy with what I said.”
Not everybody felt that way. Former Chiefs offensive lineman Rich Baldinger thinks Winston needs to apologize to the people of Kansas City, CBS reported.
Not going to happen. On his Twitter account, Winston tweeted: "I've said what I wanted to say and i won't be talking about it any further. I stand by what I have said. I believe what I said."
Perhaps the most egregious example of fans cheering an injury to a player occurred in Philadelphia in October 1999, ESPN added. Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin was cheered by Eagles fans as he lay motionless on the turf with a neck injury.
The difference, of course, in the comparison to the Cassel situation is that the boos came from opposing fans.
As the UK's Daily Mail notes, the fans' blasé attitude to Cassel's concussion fails to take into consideration the seriousness of head injuries - and their fatal effects - in the NFL.
What do you think about the comments made by Kansas City right tackle Eric Winston? Let us know in the comment section below!