Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford took down his Twitter and Instagram accounts after his team’s fans attacked him for performing below expectations in an upset loss to Minnesota on Nov. 9.
While Clifford sometimes disengages from Twitter and Instagram right before games to focus, this instance was different. The sophomore said he received death threats and “some pretty explicit and pretty tough-to-read messages.” He is far from the only player at Penn State to be bombarded with hate from strangers for on-field play.
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The incident left Clifford and the rest of the Nittany Lions football program wondering why amateur athletes are subjected to so much vitriol.
“Just a lot of things that we’re accepting in our society that we would never have accepted before,” coach James Franklin told reporters. “I’m not sure why we accept it or why we think it’s OK. Whether you’ve had 14 (beers) or not, I’m not sure why it’s OK or acceptable.”
Clifford has reactivated his Twitter and Instagram pages in recent days, but he has not posted on either medium since Nov. 5. The 21-year-old has thrown 22 touchdown passes and led Penn State to a 9-1 record and its best win percentage since 2005. Three interceptions thrown in the 31-26 loss to Minnesota, however, was enough for some fans to turn on him.
“I appreciate all of the positive people that are around, but there’s also people that try to tear you down,” Clifford said. “It’s always just been better to keep your head away from that kind of stuff.”
The university wrote in a statement that local authorities are aware of the allegations and are providing support to Clifford. No specific investigation into the matter has been announced. Earlier this year, a Penn State supporter penned a racially insensitive letter addressed to safety Jonathan Sutherland that bashed the defensive back’s appearance.