“When you talk about line cross you have to get into death threats. That’s no secret.” College athletes share the abuse they receive online

Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 6:36 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - College athletes are making sure the abuse they get online isn’t hidden.

“When you talk about line crossing you have to get into death threats,” said Iowa senior Connor McCaffery. “That’s no secret.”

Iowa senior Jordan Bohannon showed some of the derogatory direct messages he has received.

“Kill yourself” was a phrase repeated throughout many of the messages.

“Any time someone wants myself to personally die that’s definitely up there for the worst,” Bohannon said. “What we’re going through, it’s not one person it’s the whole college athlete base.”

Mental health in sports is in the national spotlight. Ohio State offensive lineman harry Miller medically retired from football after battling suicidal thoughts. He told NBC’s Today he was overwhelmed.

“You play a game, it’s a hard game perhaps you made a lot of mistakes people will send you messages saying ‘transfer you suck,’ some people get death threats,” Miller said on Today. “I’m trying to text my mom that’s the first thing I see.”

It is just a slice of the what student athletes say they have to go through on and off the playing field. They said there’s no solution to stop it, only to deal with it.

“That sucks but it’s kind of the name of the game,” said McCaffery. “Teaching the younger guys how to cope with it, because I don’t think it’s going anywhere, with the social media age that we’re in already.”

Levi Thompson runs the Facebook fan page Hawkeye Heaven.

“Is there a solution?” Thompson said. “I don’t know if I can answer that.”

Thompson said he tries to make sure fan discussion - both about players and with each other - doesn’t go over the line by removing comments when necessary. But he said it’s almost impossible to completely protect athletes.

“That is the reality, they’re in the national spotlight they’re on national television,” Thompson said. “You have to prepare yourself because if things go well they’re probably gonna get worse.”

Although it may seem bleak, student athletes like Bohannon say they’re not leaving social media.

“99 percent of fans are great,” Bohannon said. “People that look up to you, the little kids that are posting photos of you after the game and shaking your hand, giving us hugs after the game saying good job. That’s the balance that you need to find”

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