Ravens WR heckled by Pats fans on Twitter about his dead brother


I follow a few athletes on Twitter. Some are more interesting than others. Interacting with professional athletes is something that most fans want to do. Twitter has opened up an avenue that allows this interaction, all from the convenience of your laptop or phone. Many users will tweet at a celebrity or professional athlete in hopes of a response or a retweet from them. Athletes often answer personal questions about themselves that allow many followers to get to know that person better. Unfortunately, Twitter has opened an avenue that subjects the athlete or celebrity to cruel taunts and threats.

Raven’s wide receiver Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) is known to interact with his followers. He often retweets them and answers questions they may ask.  In September of 2012, Torrey’s younger brother Tevin was killed in a motorcycle accident on an early Sunday morning.  Torrey spent some time with his family that day and decided to play in the football game later that evening against the New England Patriots.  He ended up having a great game and the Ravens won 31-30 in their only regular season matchup.  After the game, a Twitter user tweeted “Hey, Smith, how about you call your bro and tell him about your wi— ohhhh. Wait. #TooSoon?”.

After the Ravens recent AFC Championship win over the Patriots, Torrey apparently was again the subject of taunts about his brother’s death from the New England Patriot fan base (apparently).  He dealt with it in an outstanding manner by not sinking to their level and simply posted “Played a lot of games since my brother’s death and I never received as many rude tweets after a win than Sunday…yet NE fans cry about class”.

This isn’t the first time this has happened and it certainly won’t be the last.  David Akers, a kicker for the 49ers, deleted his Twitter account after receiving death threats for missing a few field goals this season.  Last season, 49er returner Kyle Wilson received death threats for fumbling 2 returns during the NFC Championship game.

Athletes need to think long and hard about whether they can deal with the knuckleheads in cyberspace before opening up a Twitter account.  The idea of interacting with their fan base may seem like a fun and exciting idea but it could end up subjecting them to criticism and downright rudeness from a keyboard tough guy who just wants to stir up trouble because they have nothing better to do.

My questions for the class:

Do you feel that athletes/celebrities should be on Twitter?  If so, should they take these cold hearted taunts and death threats seriously or just shrug them off?

Has anyone seen an instance where someone was taunting an athlete/celebrity?  How did the athlete/celebrity react?


2 thoughts on “Ravens WR heckled by Pats fans on Twitter about his dead brother

  1. Twitter is a fantastic avenue for professional athletes to interact with fans and enhance the overall fan experience directly and indirectly. It is unfortunate that sportsmanship and overall human interaction has degraded to a level where someone would leave threats or make such heinous comments about deceased siblings, while a majority of the threats are empty the athletes should definitely take them all seriously.

  2. There is a lot of upside for athletes who decide to be on twitter but there are obvious downsides. Athletes who are engaging with their fans and giving fans a behind the scenes look into their lives often grow their following and are looked at in a more positive light. Going in athletes need to recognize that their are crazies in every fan base and they are opening themselves up to the negative feedback. Shrugging it off could be difficult at times when the insults and threats get personal but the positive can certainly outweigh the negative.

    As a Met fan I have seen two very different instances with athletes using twitter. Former Met pitcher RA Dickey was engaging with the fan base and made his followers feel as if they were part of his journey in winning the Cy Young award this year. He became somewhat of a folk hero to the fan base through his honesty and openness. Josh Thole on the other hand had a much different experience. The catcher had difficulty engaging the fans through his tweets as he never seemed to truly open up and be honest with fans. After a few bad games fans took to twitter to unleash their displeasure towards him. Within a few weeks of being on twitter, Thole closed down his account and was deemed a crybaby among fans. The backlash wasn’t representative of the entire fan base but a few angry tweets can go a long way if the athlete isn’t prepared.

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