The Ohio State University basketball team opened up the NCAA College Basketball Tournament (AKA “March Madness”) on Friday as a No. 2 seed — in other words, as one of the very best teams in the country.
Hours later, they were shockingly and unexpectedly knocked out of the tournament in its very first round against a massive underdog, the No. 15 seeded Oral Roberts University out of Oklahoma.
It was a truly shocking and wild sports upset — the game itself went into overtime before Ohio State faded down the stretch and lost the stunner 75-72 to the much lower-ranked ORU team.
But the real (and terrible) story happened after the game. OSU star E.J. Liddell got on Twitter on Friday night, hours after the loss, and shared two screenshots of some incredibly disgusting, vile, and racist messages he’d received on Instagram from fans upset about the upset loss.
You can see the screenshots (below), along with Liddell’s mature, heartbreaking reaction — though be warned, because the content in those messages is NSFW and very disturbing:
Why do people do stuff like this?! Yes, Ohio State should’ve gone much further in the tournament, and it was a bad first-round loss for a team that could have competed for the national championship.
But what kind of person responds to that with such sick racism?! It’s just a basketball game! Played by student-athletes who are trying their hardest! Mistakes happen, it’s not a life-or-death situation!!!
Fortunately, Liddell himself proved he was nothing but class in his responses to the terrible messages, adding in another few tweets later in the evening (below):
We honestly can’t say we’d react as calmly and professional as Liddell has if we were the ones on the receiving end of those messages.
Thankfully, OSU has reacted. According to ESPN, the school has been in communication with the police about the threats, considering some were particularly violent and mentioned Liddell’s comings and goings on campus in Columbus.
If there was one bright spot in response, though, it was the outpouring of support Liddell and his Ohio State teammates got after those messages came to light.
Here are just a few of the more powerful and positive Twitter reactions OSU fans had when seeing one of their beloved star players dealing with such awful racism:
“The real fans support you. You gave it your all and that’s what matters. Block the negativity and continue on your path young man. You have a bright future ahead of you.”
“This is so gross. You should not have to deal with this at all. I’m glad you are filing a report on them, screw those people and anyone who does/says stuff like this.”
“Thousands cheer for you, are proud of you, & love you. Feel that. Know that. That’s the truth. A few ding dongs who are sad, pathetic losers said cruel, stupid things. Try to shut them out and focus on how much you mean to so many. Congratulations on a great season.”
“EJ, stand tall, and know the VAST majority of us know what a good person and athlete you are. NO ONE has the right to spew venom and sickness like this, NO ONE! All of us need to step up and learn from this. You, sir, are now and always in my prayers”
“I’m so sorry you have to deal with this disgusting, vile abuse. You don’t deserve it at all, and neither does any human being. I have no idea why some people are so hateful, callous and ignorant. Keep your head up; there are more of us than them.”
“I write this a a mother of a college athlete – I’m so sorry there are people who think they can talk to you, or anyone like this – I wish they knew how much work and dedication it take for a young STUDENT athlete to play at this level . These are all somebodies kids!”
Reactions, Perezcious readers? What kind of sick person thinks to send messages like that in the first place?!
So disappointing to see people so eager to bring down and hurt other people like that…
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