It’s March Madness. Maybe you don’t care that much about college basketball but hopefully, you care about the way fans behave after the game. I watched the Duke-North Carolina basketball game last weekend. Full disclosure, I am an avid Duke fan and have followed Duke basketball for years. But last weekend, when a Flagrant 1 foul was called on Grayson Allen, it left me once again saddened by the hostility people spewed on social media.

The foul call was controversial — some felt it was a typical foul, others like the referees, thought it was flagrant. Although I wondered how past history with Grayson shaped the call. Either way, whatever fans believed to be the right call, there was no justification for the massive outpouring of hate I saw on Twitter. Somehow this type of cyberbullying is OK, yet we crack down on it when we see it in high school.

The tweets were vicious, filled with hate, calling for his death, the foulest cursing and name-calling — all over a basketball game foul. You have to wonder what fuels such hate in the heart of so many?

Go ahead and disagree with the call, call the referees into question, but spewing such vile hatred toward a college student and thinking that is OK is a serious indicator of the state of a person’s heart and that frightens me.

To those who so carelessly attacked Mr. Allen, I wonder…if your life were often lived-out on social media and in the public square, how would people feel about your decisions and actions? Would you never make a mistake?  Would you like to be stoned for every wrong move you make, verbally abused for poor decisions, and vilified on social media and shamed for your actions? Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone!

Why is it OK to engage in mob hatred toward a person on social media when we are so desperately trying to find solutions to cultural violence? When people who disagree on a basketball court can’t do so without sending messages of hate, harm, and wishes of death to a player, something is wrong. And, as usual, the hatred on Twitter went viral – fueling other people’s similar responses.

This is highly disturbing to me, not the call, it’s a game and the referees dealt with it and I am sure Coach K will help this young man navigate his youth. But the screen shots I took on Twitter were so vile I don’t want to reproduce them here. Shame on us for allowing hate speech on Twitter in the name of sports. Shame on the fans and non-fans who can’t control their mouth when they don’t like something and say things they would never say to a person’s face. Well, maybe they would and that is even more disturbing. And shame on our country for not reacting better to people with whom they disagree.

Why can’t politicians get along? Why can’t civil discourse happen on college campuses? Why is there so much hostility toward people you don’t even know? Maybe social media fuels the fire of mob hate. And while free speech is allowed, you have to wonder what is in the heart of so many people that makes them think this type of behavior is OK. Let’s feel free to disagree, but can we please lose the hate?

A different type of March Madness: unleashing hostility

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