Few expressions of fan discontent manifest themselves quite as viscerally as a burning jersey. For one thing, jerseys are expensive. For another thing, they’re big and bright and super visible — you can’t get halfway behind a team while wearing a jersey, especially if it’s a replication of one worn by a star player. It is, in many ways, the perfect embodiment of sports fandom, and deciding to light one on fire is not an easily made choice.
At least, not if it’s a team that you support. If you look above you’ll see Seattle fans burning a Denver Broncos jersey on the eve of the Super Bowl, which almost certainly didn’t hurt, based on the way that game played out, but that’s not really what we’re focused on in this article. No, what we’re looking at are players who have let down their fans in ways that are either real or imagined. Bonus points are given out for extra awkwardness or overreaction, since lighting a piece of fabric on fire in a way that doesn’t look exceedingly amateurish is harder than it looks.
Lastly, we’ve got to give Matt Brody a nod here for his excellent sendup of the whole scenario, the “Kevin Love Jersey Burning – Minnesota Nice Style.” Make sure you watch that before continuing on with this list.
5. Julius Peppers
Winding up in Green Bay by way of Carolina and then Chicago, linebacker Julius Peppers spent three Pro Bowl seasons in the Windy City before signing with the Packers. That would be fine — except for the fact that the Packers and the Bears have something of a rivalry, so as far as the fans are concerned, this was a move more befitting of Benedict Arnold than of an employee looking to further his career in a different branch with the same company.
To that end, a Facebook video of a Bears fan completely incinerating a now-obsolete Peppers jersey to the tune of Metallica’s Seek & Destroy made the rounds when the deal was first announced. In case you missed it, or in case you want to watch it again, you can check it out right here.
4. Matt Schaub
Matt Schaub — the former quarterback for the Houston Texans — had a really bad year last year. Tensions started to boil when he helped the Texans throw their Week 4 game against the Seattle Seahawks, and although fans would eventually start going to his house to tell him how much he sucked (it’s worth pointing out here that the whole team sucked last year), this jersey, purchased for $200 and burned in the stadium’s parking lot, was the iconic image of the Texans’ lost season. While the embed was disabled, the entire exchange is still on YouTube.
3. Eli Manning
“I am burning my Eli Manning Jersey because he sucks.” This video was posted on September 8, exactly one day after the Giants opened their 2014 season with a 14-35 loss to the Detroit Lions. You could call that an overreaction — a jersey burnt after Week 1 – and you might be right, but the mystique behind Eli Manning has long been the fact that he’s the ultimate trick-or-treat quarterback, and he could just as easily break any kind of ignoble record (most interceptions, most tears spilled on a field) as guide his team to a perfect season and a third Super Bowl victory.
2. Ray Rice
While the Baltimore Ravens are in the middle of instituting a Ray Rice jersey trade-in — just the second in NFL history, as the first was the New England Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez 2013 trade — one Ravens fan has started a ‘Ray Rice Jersey Burning Challenge,’ apparently inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket videos that have recently come to prominence. “I challenge everybody who owns a Ray Rice jersey to go outside tonight, tomorrow, sometime — to burn his damn jersey,” video creator Brandon Simmons intoned over footage of what was presumably his own jersey.
1. LeBron James
As the most famous athlete on the planet, the fallout from The Decision 1.0 when James left to join up with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami, included many Ohioans holding up the charred remains of their number 23 burgundy jerseys. Then, when James went back, some Miami fans burnt their jerseys because this is apparently how sports fans deal with LeBron leaving their team — by lighting his jersey on fire. Understandable, we suppose, considering he’s the best basketball player on the planet, and as close of a guarantee to a championship as you can find in the wide world of sports.
As always, be sure to let us know in the comments if we’ve missed anyone.