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ESPN spotlights Missouri’s Antlers in report on rowdy cheering groups

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Sunday, March 9, 2014, at 7:14 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, March 10, 2014, at 11:14 a.m.

— Missouri’s unsanctioned student cheering group for men’s basketball, the Antlers, was the subject of an ESPN “Outside the Lines” report on Sunday morning.

The newsmagazine explored the issue of fan conduct in an episode entitled “The Art of Noise.” Watch Shelley Smith’s report here.

Rowdy student cheering groups at other schools — including Oregon’s Pit Crew, which famously rained down “Gary Coleman” chants on former Washington star Nate Washington and frequently harassed UCLA’s Kevin Love — also were profiled, but the Antlers were the focus of the panel discussion.

The Antlers were kicked out of back-to-back games in late November for cheers deemed inappropriate by the school, including some profane or sexually explicit and sexist or racist chants.

“We have high expectations for our students and our staff at the University of Missouri,” Tigers athletic director Mike Alden said after ordering The Antlers to be escorted from Mizzou Arena during a win against IUPUI. “Our core values are respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence. It is critically important that we represent those values every day in everything that we do.”

Darren Hellwege — who is the sports director of KBIA, an NPR station in Columbia — said he believes the Antlers embarrass the school and had crossed the line.

Former Duke star and ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Williams admitted that sometimes fan taunts hit home and affected him as a player.

Still, Ken Paulson, the president of the First Amendment Center and a dean at Middle Tennessee State, said Missouri had no legal standing for ejecting the Antlers.

As a public university, which is considered a government entity under the law and subject to the first amendment, Alden’s decision to deem speech inappropriate and sanction The Antlers might have run afoul of the Constitution’s freedom of speech protection.

Meanwhile, the Antlers, who haven’t been kicked out of a game since Nov. 25, weren’t about to apologize for supporting the Tigers.

“I think we’re the best fan group in the country,” said Emmett Delaney, a Missouri junior and the Antlers’ grand poobah. “I think we have the same effect, if not greater effect than the Cameron Crazies. There’s 200 Cameron Crazies. We do it like a special forces team — small, but effective.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/todpalmer.

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