By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Ever get death threats over a bad day at the office? Thanks to Twitter, it happens to NFL players on a regular basis.
But it’s not just their play on the field that makes fans fly over the edge — overwhelmingly, the nastiest comments come from how that play affects fans’ fantasy football leagues.
Some tweets go beyond wishing harm on players to actually threatening violence. The following tweet targeted superstar Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Back in October, New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs received several menacing messages on Twitter, and the content concerned him enough to contact NFL security.
Jacobs exposed the fan for terrible remarks that included, “ON LIFE BRANDON IF YOU DON’T RUSH FOR 50 YARDS AND TWO TOUCHDOWNS TONIGHT ITS OVER FOR YOU AND YO FAMILY N—–.”
That tweet was followed by one that said, “FULFILL MY ORDERS STATED IN THE PREVIOUS TWEET OR THATS YO LIFE BRUH AND IM NOT PLAYING.”
In fantasy football leagues, teams get points for individual performances of players they “drafted” at the beginning of the season. Some leagues have substantial prizes for the winner of the championship.
As a result, many fans reach out to players on their fantasy team after games to congratulate or eviscerate them — like they’re the owners of a real team.
Calvin Johnson, who Monday became the first NFL player ever to rack up 5,000 yards receiving in a three-year span, got blasted with some disturbing tweets after a few drops in the game. So did Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, who went 6 for 6 Monday.
@jtuck9 KILL YOURSELF
— J Winston (@randallkooi) December 17, 2013
Two more tweets from this individual, which cannot be embedded because of their content, went even further.
@jtuck9 You f—— peice of s—, do you enjoy making people miserable, I hope you lose your leg in a car accident, nobody likes you
Last one, @Bigplaycj What the f—, you dropped three passes that were in your hands, you should die if you can’t catch and your a receiver
After being called out by Jacobs, the fan who was targeting him begged forgiveness, saying he was just joking, but Jacobs was not buying.
“When you say stuff like that and think it’s a joke, it’s a problem,” Jacobs said to the New York Daily News. “It’s a good thing he was where he was at that time.”
The volume of hateful tweets is such that one does not have to look far to see individuals hurling expletives, encouraging a player to kill himself or even threatening a player – and in Jacobs’ case, a player’s family.
For the most part, those violent tweets – phrases that if used in person might trigger a 911 call – do not rattle players.
“Well, they wouldn’t say it in person, that’s the thing,” Lions running back Reggie Bush said. “It’s easy to talk trash behind a computer, so that’s what it comes down to.”
Burleson seconded that notion.
“Most of those people that throw stuff out there like that are cowards in so many ways because they’re using a screen as a buffer between them and the real world,” Burleson said, “so it doesn’t bother me too much.
“The younger Nate might have responded and given that negative energy right back, which is ultimately kind of what they want,” Burleson continued. “They want to be able to brag to their friends and tell people that they got a rise out of an athlete and see us step outside our element and kind of I guess water down our own brand, our own names, but I just block it. If you say something too vulgar, I’m going to hit the block button, and that’s the end of that.”
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith went on a Twitter rant recently about such fans, and his final conclusion seemed to be that he disliked fantasy football because of how many fans take the entirely fictional endeavor much too seriously.
In a tweet that continued longer than 140 characters, spilling into a tmi.me post, Smith elaborated.
As I always say I dislike fantasy football because it takes away the real value of the game…it’s great for the fans to interact and be their own “GM” but people take it way to serious
New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Shanle seconded Smith’s opinion about hearing from fans about their fantasy football teams.
Jacobs says the whole system of fake teams is a “huge problem,” according to the New York Daily News.
“Players don’t want to hear anything about fantasy football,” Jacobs continued. “We’re not living fantasy football. As far as anything else, we don’t owe anybody.”
Some fantasy football players evidently feel differently.
While many tweets simply blame various players for ruining their chances at a fantasy football league championship, others demand money from players – as if the guys actually playing the games somehow guaranteed it was a good idea for spectators to plunk down money.
Clearly, a reality check is in order.
“It is ridiculous,” Detroit return man Jeremy Ross said. “I didn’t ask you to put 800 bucks into a fantasy league. That’s all your fault. That’s your fault. I’m playing football. That’s your fault that you’re betting on me. I mean I appreciate it that you believe in me, so to speak, but there’s nothing I can do about that.
Anger at the Monday performance of Johnson, known as Megatron for skills that often appear otherworldly, seems particularly unjust to Burleson.
“It’s crazy that they could even bring themselves to say something like that to their greatest receiver when he put up 300 yards [in a game],” Burleson said. “I’m pretty sure they weren’t talking about splitting the pot with him of that 800 bucks.”
What’s the worst he’s seen? Burleson will not even talk about it.
“Put it like this – it was so nasty and vulgar that I couldn’t repeat it right now,” Burleson said. “It gets a little crazy. Usually it’s the younger people, which is weird. People that are a little bit older, they kind of understand the game. It’s the younger crowd, the younger generation, that get a little too carried away with their voice in social media networks. Sometimes they can be really nasty.”
While that does not seem to dissuade players from thinking fantasy football is good for the NFL, it might make them think twice about being on Twitter, Instagram and other websites.
“It doesn’t turn me off to the fantasy football team because there are so many people who are in it for the right reasons and truly enjoy it, but it does turn me off from the social media networks,” Burleson said. “It makes me not even want to go post a tweet or go on Instagram because there’s just comment after comment of people just unleashing so much just nastiness, so I try to stay away from it when I know that people are out there throwing that stuff around.”
Though Burleson tweets throughout the season, as do Bush and fellow running back Joique Bell and some others, many players either do not tweet during the season or do not have Twitter accounts at all.
“They just don’t want to deal with it,” Burleson said. “We get criticism every day from our coaches, from the media, even relatives at times, so why add on another element of somebody that you don’t even know, a complete stranger, to tear you down?”