Gritty, the famed Philadelphia Flyers mascot, was recently cleared of all assault charges following a Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) investigation. In 2018, Gritty was introduced, and instantly beloved, as the new mascot of the Flyers. His bizarre and horrifying look, outlandish behavior, and mischievous acts – including wedding crashing, taunting nuns, internet trolling, streaking at the Penguins-Flyers Stadium Series game, and dropping the gloves with youth hockey players – have earned him fame and admiration of not only Flyers’ fans, but fans across the NHL.
In November 2019, Chris Greenwell and his 13-year-old son, Brandon, went to an exclusive event for Flyers season ticket holders, held at the Wells Fargo Center. The two waited in line for about an hour. Finally, they took a photograph with Gritty, but shortly thereafter, Brandon playfully patted Gritty on the head and began to walk away. Gritty suddenly got out of his chair, “took a running start,” and “punched [Brandon’s back] as hard as he could.” According to Greenwell, a chiropractor later diagnosed Brandon with a back bruise and mild pain.
Greenwell contacted Comcast Spectacor, the company that owns the Flyers, and informed them of the incident. In an email, Greenwell said, “I know it was not correct for my son to harmlessly tap [Gritty] on his head but for a Flyers employee to … throw a full punch at someone with his back turned and hurt a 13 year old boy is assault, unprofessional and unacceptable for your organization.” Greenwell believed there was, and asked to see, video surveillance that captured the incident; however, he was told that no such footage existed because the “cameras in that area of the center are focused on other locations.” According to Greenwell, “[t]hat tells you enough right there when you won’t let me see the video. If you have nothing to hide, you would show the video.” Greenwell claimed all he wanted was an apology and for the organization to foot the $300 chiropractor bill.
According to Greenwell, a Delaware resident, the Philadelphia Flyers “offered [him] two all-I-can-eat and drink passes for [him] and [his] son at one of the alcohol establishments inside of the Wells Fargo Center.” However, Greenwell responded, “I drive 50 to 60 miles to the Wells Fargo Center, I’m taking my 13-year-old son, why would I want all-you-can-drink passes with my son? Makes no sense at all.” Greenwell asked the Philadelphia Flyers representative, instead, to take Brandon “downstairs, get him autographs with the players, meet the players and a picture.” After weeks of negotiation, the parties were unable to come to an agreement and Greenwell decided to report the incident to the PPD.
After news of the allegations broke, in a statement, the Philadelphia Flyers said, “[w]e took Mr. Greenwell’s allegations seriously and conducted a thorough investigation that found nothing to support this claim.” Soon after, the #FreeGritty hashtag went viral and fans flocked to the mascot’s defense. The PPD investigated what they described as an alleged physical assault. Recently, the PPD stated that “the actions of the individual portraying the Flyers’ mascot did not constitute physical assault” and the Flyers stated “there was no merit to the alleged claim.”
“I’ll always be a Flyers fan, but I lost a lot of respect for the team after the way they’ve treated a long-time season-ticket holder,” Greenwell said. He has since canceled his season tickets after 22 seasons.