For more than a century, the Pitts’ family farm has been a presence in northwest Arkansas. For more than four decades, the family has been a regular at Razorback football games. In the middle of all this farming and fandom has been 30-year-old Seth Pitts, now the family’s eldest son.
The good times, however, have come to a temporary end.
Pitts won’t get to attend Arkansas’ game against Alabama this weekend in Fayetteville. He’s not allowed to see the Razorbacks’ game at home next season as they try to build off a promising debut season in the Sam Pittman era. Nor will he get to see his beloved OmaHogs contend for a national title this spring.
He was recently barred from the campus for a year after arguing with police officers over wearing a mask in Reynolds Razorback Stadium on November 21.
Police issued Pitts misdemeanor citations for obstructing governmental operations and disorderly conduct after he tried to get into the LSU-Arkansas game without wearing a mask. Face coverings are required to attend all UA athletic events to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The cameras pick up the incident with Pitts, massless, standing at the ticket scanner talking to police officer Ryan Barber.
Right before that point, according to Barber’s police report, Pitts “walked by three University officials who were trying to get the male to put a mask on. The male flipped one of the females off as he passed her.”
Barber then stopped Pitts from entering without a mask.
Pitts then informs Barber that this is his fourth game of the season to attend and he hadn’t worn a mask in any of the previous three games.
They go back and forth a bit, with Pitts at one point stating “Cut the s***, the election’s over. We can get past that now.” Finally, as you can see in the footage below, Pitts puts on a mask after given one. He enters the stadium about 30 minutes before the 11 a.m. kickoff.
That’s when things get even more hairy.
An officer tracks down Pitts, again going maskless, in a stairwell.
That’s the final straw. Pitts is told he will be ejected from the stadium. Pitts asks why and is told he isn’t following the rule requiring a mask. So he again puts the mask he’s carrying back on.
“You asked me to put a mask on, I did. I walked past you,” Pitts says, also reiterating that he in the previous games he had attended he saw plenty of fans going maskless.
This is possible, given the laxity involving face coverings at high school and college football games nationwide earlier in the fall. It’s easy to see how many people could come to believe masks were a suggestion, not a requirement. In the last few weeks, however, as COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed, officials have stressed the importance of public health measures in combating the pandemic.
When officials stressed this fact to Pitts on November 21, he chafed at the requirement. Still, he put it back on in the stairwell when the officer reminded him to. They keep talking and the officer requests to see Pitts’ ID. He refuses.
“How can you eject me if my mask is on?,” he asks. When he again refuses to produce ID, part of the obstruction that would get him arrested, Pitts is grabbed and forcibly turned around at the 2:10 mark below. He was handcuffed.
Pitts then got a ride to Washington County jail but wasn’t booked into custody. He was released because of social distancing measures in the jail.
On top of the misdemeanor charges, Pitts has been barred from University of Arkansas campus for one year. If he is spotted on UA property, he could be arrested on criminal trespassing charges.
He can, however, appeal this ban.
A Defense of Seth Pitts
Pitts hasn’t yet publicly commented on his arrest, but he has let his lawyer Jay Moore speak on his behalf.
“Thanks for reaching out,” Moore wrote to 40/29 News, northwest Arkansas’ ABC affiliate. It is very premature for us to comment in detail regarding the case as Mr. Pitts and I have requested the body camera videos in their entirety but do not yet have them in our possession.
“That being said, it’s important to note that Mr. Pitts does understand the University’s policy regarding masks. Seth and his family have been Razorback donors and season ticket holders for forty-one (41) consecutive years and Seth loves nothing more than cheering on the Hogs.”
“Seth attended each of the three prior 2020 home games without wearing a mask, without issue. While attending those games he noticed law enforcement, medical personnel, large groups of patrons, and event staff members who were not wearing masks, or not wearing them correctly, leading Seth to believe the mask requirement was a suggestion.”
“Again, it is too early to go into the specifics of the interactions between Seth and the UAPD, however, it is important to note that Seth never intended to garner this much negative attention. Just last year, Seth and his brothers were named Washington County Farm family of the year.”
“Ask anyone who knows him and they will tell you that Seth is a loving son, husband, and father, who bleeds Razorback red.”
Who is Seth Pitts?
Pitts is the eldest of three brother who are helping keep their family business in Lincoln alive. Now called Sugar Hill Ranch, the chicken and cattle farm began in 1914 as a 350-acre apple farm.
It was passed through the generations, but in 2007 the Pitts boys’ father Russell died from a heart attack at age 42. Their grandfather Roger took over the operations for a while, but he passed away in 2016.
“They’ve gone through a lot,” grandmother Mary Alice told KUAF in 2019. “They had to become adults kind of instantly when their dad died. Seth had to grow up.”
“They have close to 600 head of cattle. They cut and bale all their own hay that gets their cattle through the winter. They run five poultry houses and are really thoughtful about efficiency and looking toward the future. They’re being very conservative in terms of repair and making decisions on where and how they can tweak things to be the most productive.”
The Pitts’ farm helps to fuel Arkansas’s largest industry of agriculture, which adds around $16 billion to the state’s economy annually. While 97% of Arkansas’ farms are still small family owned, according to the KUAF report, it can be a stressful work that never slows down with the demands on those who stick with it.