The tweet was shocking from WVU basketball standout Taz Sherman.
“Getting death threats and telling me you gonna kill me and my family is also not a part of sports.”
It came after the Mountaineers’ NCAA tournament loss to Syracuse.
But that wasn’t all.
“Sadly, most of em from West Virginia smh,” wrote Sherman on Twitter.
And what’s stunning is Sherman wasn’t alone. After his team’s loss to Oral Roberts, Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell says he was also a victim of threatening messages on social media.
“Honestly, what did I do to deserve this?” Liddell wrote on Twitter. “I’m human.”
The behavior has a long and ugly history. Former WVU kicker and current sports personality superstar Pat McAfee received death threats after missing a couple field goal attempts in the 2007 loss to Pitt at Milan Puskar Stadium. McAfee has discussed it and the subsequent effects on his national radio show.
I could go on and on. Heck, my ex-wife, a contributor for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, once received a death threat – and her topics are day-to-day life, children, pets, etc. (The police, by the way, caught the guy.)
It has to stop. Those sending the hate have to pay.
I know social media has its good side and its ugly side. I know people throw rocks on Twitter, Facebook, etc., all the time.
But death threats are miles and miles over the line. I don’t care if you’re passionate about a team. I don’t care if you’re drunk or high. There’s no excuse for sending such messages – especially to young adults. None. And I hope our police are not only able to track but prosecute those who do send such messages.
On Tuesday, I inquired about WVU’s protocols in such a situation. I received the following reply from Bryan Messerly, associate athletic director/communications:
“Statement from [WVU athletic director] Shane Lyons:
‘We have looked into the situation and have talked to our student-athletes. Any information beyond that I cannot share.’”
Let’s hope that means an open investigation is underway. Let’s hope that leads to charges.
West Virginia is about down-to-earth people pulling for each other. It’s about helping each other. It’s not about threatening lives. It’s not about shaking someone’s mental health.
Time to do better, folks. And it’s time to prosecute those that don’t.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.