Penn State QB Sean Clifford has provided us with the latest example of college football fans taking the sport way, way too seriously.
Clifford played poorly in the Nittany Lions’ 31-26 loss at Minnesota on Nov. 9. The loss ended Penn State’s chances of an undefeated season. It also led to a lot of vile messages from fans on social media, Clifford said.
“It’s kind of sad to say, but you know how some fans get. It gets a little crazy,” Clifford said. “I was, kind of, sick and tired of getting death threats and some pretty explicit and pretty tough-to-read messages.
“You learn how to deal with certain things and how certain people are going to react because it’s a very passionate game with a lot of passionate people. You know, our fans are definitely one of, if not the most passionate in the country. I just try to stay away from it. I appreciate all the positive people that are around, but there are also people that try to tear you down.”
Clifford was 23-of-43 passing for 340 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions in that game. The third interception came with 1:01 left in the game on a third-and-24 when Penn State was trying for a potential game-winning touchdown. Clifford said he deleted his social media presence in the days after the game.
Penn State coach James Franklin was asked about the threats after Clifford revealed them Tuesday morning. He called it “troubling” and “concerning.” His full thoughts are below.
“I don’t know where we are as a society,” Franklin said. “It’s concerning. We’re 9-1, we’re ranked in the top 10 I think. [We] had a pretty good year based on most people’s standards and sometimes you go on social media and you wouldn’t feel that way.”
Antonio Shelton received racist letter in October
It’s not the first time a Penn State player has publicly shared the harassment he’s received from fans this season. Defensive tackle Antonio Shelton tweeted a picture of a racist letter he received in October from a fan. The fan said Shelton should cut his hair because his dreadlocks were “disgusting” and “not attractive.”
Penn State played Iowa after Shelton shared the letter and players warmed up before the game in shirts denouncing the letter.
The letter Shelton received and the threats that Clifford received are obviously not representative of an entire fanbase. Asking all Penn State fans to do better is unfair to those who can’t handle losing or the way that players look in 2019. But there are unfortunately still too many who can’t figure out that harassing college players isn’t the way to act.
Penn State is 9-1 and can win the Big Ten title and likely make the College Football Playoff without a loss the rest of the regular season. But the Nittany Lions play at Ohio State on Saturday and are 19-point underdogs.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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