Twitter, ever since its introduction to the world, has been a controversial medium. In terms of how it relates to sports, there have been players fined for comments that ultimately made their team look bad, while others have used it to announce their contract signings. However, one major problem with the medium is when fans go too far in their dislike of their team losing, such as a few weeks ago during the series between the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. A fan, unhappy with his team’s loss, threatened Marcin Gortat with a terroristic tweet after a victory. As a result, the NBA will be looking into the situation.
The tweets were made after Washington started the first round series up 2-0 against Chicago. In the tweets, the basketball fan made violent threats to the Polish-born Gortat that described a scenario where there was a bomb on the plane. Additionally, he spoke how the player’s home country would get bombed, leading to his family getting murdered.
With this being nothing to brush aside, the Wizards’ organization was informed and investigated on the matter immediately. However, after much investigation, they turned it over to the league office. No one knows the result of the ongoing investigation, due to the league stating they do not comment on security issues. What is known, however, is that Gortat stated that the case was handled. He also mentioned that the man, who wrote the tweets, had been visited a few times by officials.
It is the latest news about angry fans who take their affiliation too far. Even after the series was over, Gortat, who wanted to celebrate Washington’s first playoff victory in nine years, tweeted his enthusiasm. Not surprisingly, many were not happy with his excitement, which resulted in many negative tweets directed at him.
While one would think that Gortat would let the tweets slide, after receiving the terroristic threat a week earlier, instead he responded with notable one-liners. However, the big man did say that he refused to get involved when certain fans went too far. In dealing with the Washington security team though, Gortat deleted much of this interaction that transpired following the end of Game Five.
This situation of the threatened Marcin Gortat on Twitter is the latest in what has become commonplace when social media sites interact with the sports world. In an age where communication is as open and free as it ever has been, it has come at a cost. That cost is extreme negativity. More specifically, in the sports world, the cost is the brutal reactions of its fans and other sports’ writers.
Negativity does not just involve the NBA though. One other such example occurred during the Sochi Olympics, where British diver Tom Daley was attacked on the social media platform immediately after missing out on a medal. In the tweet, one fan stated that the athlete let his dad down. This is a minor example of how sports’ fans get out of hand on Twitter, but it shows that a fan can show disappointment without crossing a line. While the Socchi reaction was a little excessive, it fits right in line with freedom of speech. No one got threatened violence. It was just an overreaction.
However, much like the Marcin Gortat situation, there are many other sports fans on who are going to cross that line, especially when it comes to fantasy football. Last fall, Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford got chewed out by fans for their play. In one tweet, the fan said he lost his fantasy matchup by four points. His reaction? “That’s four bullets for each of you.” This, much like Gortat tweet, is when the fan has gone too far.
Sports fans, undoubtedly, are going to be an opinionated, fickle bunch. Being upset that their favorite team or athlete did not do well is completely normal. Usually, this is brought out through fans expressing how they are disappointed or hate this or that team. This is a completely rational way to react in the wake of an important sporting event.
However, while it is not always the case, some fans, much like those who comment on news and political articles, speak out to a point that reaches a dangerous level. Yes, we are a country of free speech, but when fans, jokingly or not, are legitimately threatening those who are merely doing their job, it is a huge problem.
In the case of the tweet to the Wizards’ player, it is an example of opinion and emotions getting the better of a fan. As a result, when Marcin Gortat was threatened, while likely an idle threat, one can never be too certain on the controversial social media platform of Twitter. Moreover, fans could be subject of visit from officials of a league or worse yet, the FBI. This is an unnecessary situation, when at the end of the day, whether it is basketball, the Olympics or any other event, it is just entertainment for fans, nothing more.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey