Gritty, the zany mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, is being investigated for allegedly assaulting a 13-year-old boy after they took a photo together.
During a November photo shoot at the Wells Fargo Center for season ticket-holding fans, Chris Greenwell and his son Brandon say they got more than they bargained for in their encounter with the seven-foot orange mascot.
Greenwell, 46, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that after the photo was taken, Brandon genially patted Gritty on the head. Afterwards, the unidentified individual donning the mascot costume that day stood from his chair, “took a running start” and punched the boy in the back “as hard as he could,” the father alleges.
“I know it was not correct for my son to harmlessly tap him on his head but for a Flyers employee to get [sic] 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 wrote in an email to officials at Comcast Spectacor, the company that owns the Flyers.
Greenwell also recounted the situation in a Flyers fan Facebook group on Wednesday.
Greenwell said that Brandon was taken to see a chiropractor about a week later, where he was officially diagnosed with a back bruise, according to documents obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Officials at the Flyers' parent company told Greenwell via email that no video footage of the incident exists because “the cameras in that area of the center are focused on other locations.” The company said they conducted an internal investigation with the person playing Gritty that day – who was unidentified in their email correspondence – and that Greenwell’s account couldn’t be verified.
In an emailed statement, a Flyers spokesperson told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “We took Mr. Greenwell’s allegations seriously and conducted a thorough investigation that found nothing to support this claim.”
On Dec. 21, roughly one month after the alleged assault, Greenwell reported the incident to Philadelphia law enforcement. Described as a “physical assault … during a photo shoot with 13-year-old white male and Flyers mascot Gritty,” the case is being investigated by the South Detectives Division. Philadelphia police officers have not yet identified a specific Gritty performer in their report.
While fans of Gritty have rallied around the creature and proclaimed his innocence on Facebook groups like “Gritty Memes for Philly Teens” and under the Twitter hashtag #FREEGRITTY, others have noted that the the investigation of the alleged assault has seemingly focused more on the character of Gritty, not the person wearing the costume.
“So Gritty is under investigation … not the person wearing the suit? This is something,” one Twitter user posted.
Greenwell has not yet hired a lawyer, telling The Philadelphia Inquirer that all he wanted was an apology and something done to make up for the trauma his son experienced.
“I’ve lost a lot of respect for the team that I’ve loved for so long,” Greenwell said to NBC 10 Philadelphia.
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