25 Instances of Mascots Misbehaving
Mascots are known for their unruly behavior and general shenanigans at sporting events. That’s why they’re there to begin with, right? To misbehave and entertain the crowd with their hijinks is practically the job description.
That being said, there’s a fine line between playfully misbehaving and criminally misbehaving. Sometimes mascots cross that line by accident, other times it’s on purpose. Either way, it’s almost always guaranteed to generate headlines.
Here are 25 instances of mascots misbehaving.
Sebastian the Ibis, Like Most Birds, Has No Regard for Personal Space
In December 2002 the University of Miami mascot, Sebastian the Ibis, made headlines when his on-the-field antics cost the Hurricanes a 15-yard penalty during the Sugar Bowl.
As reported by The Associated Press (via ESPN.com), after Najeh Davenport scored a touchdown that sealed Miami’s victory, Sebastian ran out onto the field to hug and kiss "Dookie" Davenport. Apparently he and the “overzealous" costumed cheerleader were "buddies."
Baxter Busted for DUI
In January 2009, the Arizona Diamondbacks were forced to cut ties with David Hamilton, who played their mascot Baxter, after he was arrested on suspicion of extreme DUI.
As reported by Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic, though the news broke in the offseason, Hamilton was actually arrested the previous September. The toxicology report from the arrest revealed a blood alcohol content of .155, almost twice the legal limit.
Hamilton also spilled the beans to the cops that he had been smoking marijuana earlier that day.
Harvey the Hound Gets Had
In January 2003 the Calgary Flames mascot, Harvey the Hound, was doing that menacing mascot thing during a game against the Edmonton Oilers. With the Flames up 4-0 early in the third, Harvey headed over to hang behind the opposing bench.
Fans on hand may have been amused, but Oilers coach Craig MacTavish was anything but. Instead of doing his best to ignore the irritating and massive 6’6 mutt taunting him, MacTavish reached up and grabbed Harvey’s tongue, then tossed it into the crowd.
Per the Associated Press (via Sports Illustrated), Flames spokesman Peter Hanlon said, “[Harvey] was in a place he shouldn’t have been.”
In November 2008, the student who played the Penn State Nittany Lion mascot was arrested and charged with DUI, just hours before a game against Michigan State. James Sheep was suspended from his mascot duties through the rest of the year and missed the Rose Bowl weeks later.
Apparently they really planned on Sheep returning the following year, as a member of the cheerleading squad was temporarily promoted to fulfill his mascot duties.
Pat Patriot Prefers Prostitutes
In 2009, the man behind the Patriots mascot’s oversized head was busted in a prostitution sting. Rhode Island State Police arrested Robert Sormanti, one of several men who donned the costume at the time, for solicitation of a working girl.
He was immediately suspended and, since he wasn’t again mentioned in the news, presumably fired.
Bucky the Badger's Repeat Offense
In 1996, Wisconsin’s mascot Bucky the Badger was arrested for crowd surfing in the student section during a football game. He was booked and released, but not before being issued a $141.50 ticket.
Though I’m not sure he learned his lesson.
In September 2004 the Badger Herald reported Bucky was arrested for “body passing” through the student section, which certainly sounds like crowd surfing. This time he was issued a $181 ticket, a fine that apparently must keep pace with inflation.
You Mess with Benny the Bull, You Get Benny the Bull's Horns
In July 2006, Bulls mascot Benny the Bull was charged with misdemeanor battery after allegedly throwing a punch at an off-duty sheriff’s deputy at an outdoor festival. Barry Anderson, the 26-year-old man behind the Benny mask, was riding a motorcycle without a permit when he was chased down by security.
Anderson attempted to evade the men pursuing him and then punched the deputy who caught up with him, knocking off his glasses and breaking his watch. He was also charged with driving within a parkway.
Bearcat Busted for Throwing Snowballs
In December 2010 the Cincinnati Bearcats' mascot was arrested for, essentially, having too much fun—misery is an obligation in the state of Ohio. During the Pitt-Cincinnati game The Bearcat was detained by police and ejected from the stadium for throwing snowballs into the delighted crowd.
Not so delighted were the police, who asked him to stop and then went all “QUIT RESISTING!!!” when he didn’t. Naturally, the whole thing was documented by bystanders and posted on social media. Apparently the school had someone on standby too, because the mascot was replaced later in the game.
Dancing Dodgers Mascot Is an Imposter
In October 2013 it may have looked to Dodgers fans as though their bear mascot was getting arrested; after all, a man dressed in a Dodgers bear mascot costume did get arrested. As it turned out, however, it wasn’t the actual mascot, but just another “drunk bro rocking a Ted costume,” that per Q103 Albany.
Actually, it’s hard to know if the aforementioned "drunk bro" got arrested or if he just left the stadium at the insistence of his security escort. Perhaps it was both.
In 1994 the Heat’s mascot Burnie—who looks like an orange Phillie Phanatic with a basketball nose—found himself in the middle of some courtroom drama when he was hauled in for injuring the wife of a federal judge at an exhibition game in Puerto Rico.
Yvonne Gil-Rebello claimed she was injured when Wes Lockard, dressed as Burnie, threw her down in a mock wrestling match. He was arrested for the offense in Puerto Rico, found guilty, and later sued in federal court.
Of the incident she said, “I was deprived of my dignity and it was wrong.” Gil-Rebello estimated the worth of her dignity at around $1 million, which is what she hoped to claim in damages from the Heat. Three years later the case was settled and the team paid out $50,000.
In February 2013 the Bakersfield Condors made the case for every other sports team on Earth against having a live mascot. For some reason they decided to bring a live condor to the game and let it out during the National Anthem.
Although the massive bird behaved pretty much as you’d expect it to, given the weird and unfamiliar environment, it’s safe to say the team (and the bird’s handlers) had an entirely different vision of how things would go down.
To see exactly how they went down, you have to watch the video. Words simply cannot do the scene justice.
In April 2008, 24-year-old Kenneth Hahey, of the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Mt. Washington, was arrested and charged with DUI after being stopped with a blood alcohol level of .166. It would’ve been just another DUI logged in the city’s South Side neighborhood if the offender wasn’t a member of the Steelers organization…sorta.
At the time Hahey was one of the men who played the team’s ridiculous mascot Steely McBeam, a burly steelworker with intense five o’clock shadow and a smile that would haunt the dreams of the boogeyman himself. According to Jodi Weigand of TribLive.com, Hahey was immediately “released from his duties.”
Stanford's Fighting Tree
The Stanford Tree and Cal’s mascot Oski have a rivalry that dates back to the early 90s. In 1992, Cal fans pelted the Stanford band with fruit and tackled both the Tree and a “yell leader.”
However, it didn’t really escalate until three years later, when the Tree and Oski had to be pried apart from a legendary wrestling session which took place during an ESPN-televised timeout.
They were both ejected from the game, and have continued menacing each other ever since.
Stanford's Intoxicated Tree
In February 2006 that wacky Stanford Tree struck again, this time being ejected from a men’s basketball game (which was, incidentally, against Cal) for public drunkenness.
Erin Lashnits, who donned the costume at that time, was busted when she blew an impressive .157 blood alcohol content during the game. She was ultimately fired because the university has a zero tolerance policy for such drunkenness.
Denver Nuggets Mascot's Domestic Dispute
In November 2002, 36-year-old Ken Solomon, best known as “Rocky” the Denver Nuggets mascot, was arrested after allegedly menacing his former wife and three children at a Colorado doctor’s office (reported by ESPN.com).
Solomon was held without bail and charged with first-degree trespass and harassment resulting in domestic violence. The Nuggets had no mascot to perform at their season home-opener as a result of his arrest.
Oh the humanity!
Billy the Marlin's Bazooka-Like T-Shirt Cannon
In January 2001 Saul Shechter filed suit against the Marlins mascot, Billy the Marlin, for a freak injury sustained during a t-shirt cannon incident that occurred the previous summer. Shechter alleged that he suffered permanent loss of vision as the result of being hit in the face with a souvenir t-shirt, fired into the cheap seats using a “bazooka-like cannon.”
According to Andy Knobel of The Baltimore Sun, the team had previously tried to smooth things over with a get-well card and a written apology from the mascot, but Shechter was seeking at least $15,000 for his injury and related medical bills. Although his claim was ultimately unsuccessful.
Vulcan the Arsonist
In October 2010, California University’s Vulcan mascot (a state school in Western PA) was arrested and charged with arson. Police apprehended 20-year-old James Shaffer for allegedly setting a homecoming float on fire.
According to the Tribune Review, “Shaffer was charged with arson and related offenses, risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.”
Devils Mascot Lives Up to Team Name
This one goes back awhile and is no laughing matter. In 1993, the New Jersey Devils decided to completely 86 their mascot “Slapshot” (a spongy hockey puck with a creepy smile and devil horns) after three women accused him (it?) of improperly touching them while in uniform.
The Devils have since brought back a mascot, but not the same one. The NJ Devil has managed to rehab the image of the franchise’s mascot and has even starred in a SportsCenter commercial with ESPN’s Jay Harris.
Da Bull Selling Da Weed
In January 2014 the Bulls' mascot, “Da Bull,” was pulled over by police in Chicago and arrested when officers found six ounces of marijuana and a scale in the trunk of his vehicle. According to a report in USA Today, “Da Bull is identified on the Bulls website as the slam-dunking cousin of the team’s other mascot, Benny the Bull.”
It looks like he may have since been relegated to the D-League. You’ll be relieved to learn that, according to the report, 31-year-old Chester Brewer was not dressed as a bull at the time of his arrest. Phew.
San Diego Chicken Cold Clocks Cheerleader
The San Diego Chicken may look like a ladies…chicken…in that photo, but it turns out he’s not quite as good with the ladies as one would suspect. Back in 1991, the chicken was sued by a Chicago Bulls cheerleader who was seeking $1 million in damages for a broken jaw she claimed to sustain when tackled by him during a game.
Kimberly A. Smith was forced to miss the rest of the Bulls' season, in which they went on to win a championship. She didn’t get a million, but she was eventually awarded $300K, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
Minor League Mascot, Major League Offense
In July 2006, the man who rocked the Reedy Rip’It mascot suit for the Greenville Drive was arrested after a woman alleged she was fondled by the giant frog at a game. According to the police report, the incident occurred as the woman and her friend were leaving their seats and the mascot “grabbed her breast in a stairwell," as reported by Clarissa Striker of the Associated Press (via CBS News).
Cecil McLaurin Amick III was immediately suspended from his duties as an investigation into the incident played out. The team’s GM noted that employees were expected to adhere to policies outlined within the employee handbook, which probably included a section on not groping fans.
Pirates Parrot Used to Have More Duties
Kevin Koch was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ original Pirate Parrot mascot, landing the job when it originated back in 1979. He enjoyed five fun-filled years donning the feathers and, apparently, connecting players with a cocaine dealer, before things came crashing down in 1985.
The “Pittsburgh drug trials” that followed were significant enough to have their own Wikipedia page and resulted in the harshest MLB penalties doled out since the Black Sox scandal of 1919.
Phillie Phanatic Accidentally Accosts the Elderly
In July 2010 the Phillie Phanatic, who is no stranger to the inside of a courtroom, was sued by 75-year-old Grace Crass. The woman claimed the mascot injured her knees when it climbed through the stands at a minor league game in 2008, and resulted in knee replacement surgery.
John Speicher, the Crass’ attorney, acknowledged the obvious absurdity of the situation. Said Speicher, “This is like suing Santa Claus. I’m expecting him to come to a deposition, stick his stomach and his tongue out at me and not say anything.” They were seeking “in excess” of $50,000.
No word on how the case was resolved, but something tells me it was an out of court settlement. Bringing a case against the Phillie Phanatic to trial would be an absolute circus.
Phillie Phanatic's Impromptu Pool Party Proves Costly
In June 2012 the Phillie Phanatic, the mascot world's most serious legal liability, was sued by a woman claiming she was severely and permanently injured when he threw her into the shallow end of a pool at a Pennsylvania hotel. Apparently she was sitting in a chair, just minding her own business, when the Phanatic chucked her into the drink (Associated Press, via ABC Local).
Suzanne Peirce alleged that her injuries had worsened in the two years between the initial incident and the time the lawsuit was filed. At the time of the lawsuit, it was unknown who was donning the mascot mask when the incident took place. The suit may still be playing itself out in court, as no further updates are available.
They don’t call that thing the “Most-Sued Mascot in the Majors” for nothing.
To Catch a Minor League Mascot
In 2007, Deadspin published an article about the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons’ mascot entitled, “Grump Is The Most Persistent Of Molester Mascots.” That should give you an idea about the kind of icky misbehavior we’re dealing with here.
At the time, Grump, who was played by Jay S. Hastings, had been arrested twice in less than a week for soliciting sex via the internet from a boy who was not nearly old enough to legally solicit sex from.
Hastings was nabbed in a “To Catch A Predator” style operation when he showed up to a house in hopes of having sex with a 14-year-old boy who turned out to be a police decoy. Upon his arrest, he then revealed a sexual relationship he’d been having with a 15-year-old boy he’d met over the internet previously.
Hastings was charged with criminal attempt to commit statutory sexual assault, criminal attempt to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, criminal attempt to commit indecent assault, criminal attempt of corruption of minors, unlawful contact with a minor and criminal use of communication facility. Wowza.
*Please note: Pictured is the Red Sox mascot, Wally. We don't have the rights to post any actual photos of Grump, so we opted for a non-pervert lookalike.