COLUMBIA — Missouri defeated Gardner-Webb 72-63 on Saturday in a game without its most conspicuous cheering section.
Champ Caldwell, a five-year member of the student heckling group the Antlers, was running late to Mizzou Arena, and he didn't think anyone but his friends were waiting for him. He thought the rest of his group would be in full cheering swing already by the time he got there.
He was wrong. The rest of the Antlers weren't at their usual post in the student section. They were behind the bleachers on the arena's bottom floor, being held by the MU Police Department in a room, ironically, called the Hospitality Room. And someone was waiting for him.
MU events staff recognized Caldwell, who was wearing an Antlers T-shirt, immediately as a member of the group and escorted him to the Hospitality Room as soon as he entered the arena, he said.
Before the game, all 13 members of the Antlers were ejected from the arena for continuing a "pattern of unruly behavior," MU Assistant Athletic Director Dave Reiter said.
"I was told to follow an event staff person on down to the Hospitality Room," Caldwell said. "I wasn't told why, I wasn't told anything. I was led to the Hospitality Room, where there were three campus police officers waiting, all armed, of course. They told me they needed to see my ID. I said 'Why, what happened?' They said, 'We don’t have to tell you, but you have to give us your ID.'"
The students were ejected from the arena. They were escorted from the stands after continuing to use a chant that goes "Scum, scum, scum, go back to where you're from and die," at an opposing player during warmups.
This after Antlers leader Emmett Delaney was warned Friday in a meeting with MU administration that his group's language was getting too vulgar. The warning came from a group that included Vice Chancellor Catherine C. Scroggs and MSA President Nick Droege.
The ejected Antlers members were told that if they attempted to re-enter the arena Saturday, they would be arrested for trespassing, Caldwell said.
Reiter said that the group would be allowed back at Mizzou Arena for Monday's game against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and that it was warned about which chants would be allowed and which wouldn't.
"We have high standards for the behavior of all of our fans ," Reiter said. "You can still cheer and be unique but in an appropriate way."
Delaney said he told his group to replace "and die" with "and cry" but that it didn’t make a difference. Delaney and Antlers member Richard Barber said the group changed multiple chants and taped over the offensive names on the back of their T-shirts, which are often innuendos.
"We had three meetings before the game about what we needed to do dialed back," Delaney said. "In my opinion, it was probably the cleanest session we ever had."
Barber added in a text message: "We were told yesterday to clean up our act and we did. We taped over our names. We changed chants. Apparently, though, 'Scum, scum scum, go back to where you're from' is too offensive."
Reiter said that the case will be turned over to the Office of Student Conduct and that the Antlers were treated like any fans would have been in the situation.
But Caldwell said he felt individually persecuted, basically for the name of the organization on his T-shirt. He didn't get a chance to cheer. He never got a chance to even find his seat.
"I was kicked out for just showing up," he said.
The Antlers were founded in 1976.
After the ejection, only five rows of the student section were full, and half of that consisted of the band.
The Tigers looked like they could use the extra motivation all afternoon. Missouri received 44 points from Jordan Clarkson, Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown but led by just two points at halftime. Gardner-Webb came as close as three points away with 10 minutes to play.
Missouri returns to Mizzou Arena on Monday to host IUPUI.