Memphis, TN — 38 people are injured, including one Arkansan, after the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies’ new live mascot escaped onto Beale Street prior to last night’s game against the Orlando Magic.
The 520 lbs adult male grizzly bear, on loan from the Memphis zoo, was on display outside the Fedex Forum before the game. NBA rules do not allow the use of live mascots inside the arena building.
“Everything was going well, the bear was very relaxed. He is very accustom to people from his years in the zoo,” the bear’s trainer Ben Damon tells us. “Some street performers were playing on the corner of 3rd and Beale, and suddenly the bear went into a violent rampage when they began playing Walking in Memphis for a group of tourist. He tore away from his restraints and took off running toward the performers.”
Witnesses say the bear began throwing the performer’s instruments into the crowd, causing the majority of the injuries. The bear then turned on a Hot Springs, AR man, who reportedly made the initial song request.
“We saw the bear stand on his hind legs and roar at this guy wearing an Arkansas Razorback hat and a Hard Rock Cafe shirt,” Sue Pennington of Germantown tells us. “He then grabbed the man in his teeth by the shirt and ran down Beale with him. The last we saw the bear was throwing him into the river.”
The bear was raised in captivity in the Memphis Zoo and has shown no prior aggression toward people, though has shown noticeable irritation to the song before. In 2011 the bear escaped from his pen to destroy a nearby speaker when after hours cleaning staff began playing the song.
The Memphis Grizzlies, who went on to beat the Magic 94-85, say they plan to try the live mascot again later in the season with a bear from out of town.