While there are many examples of how social media has changed the relationships between professional athletes and fans for the better, we've been overrun with examples lately of just how much negativity can also be disseminated via these platforms.
Earlier this week, Knicks guard J.R. Smith was inundated with negative tweets about his performance after New York was eliminated from the playoffs. Washington Capitals winger Joel Ward has twice been the subject of racist Twitter outbursts during the 2012 NHL postseason. Before that Kyle Williams of the San Francisco 49ers faced death threats after making a mistake late in a playoff loss.
The latest professional athlete to be tweeted a threat to his life, as well as various other demeaning messages, resulting from his performance in a high-profile game is C.J. Watson of the Chicago Bulls, who has the Twitter handle @quietstorm_32. In the waning moments of the Bulls' season-ending loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Watson made a mental error that proved costly.
WARNING: Uncensored tweets below.
The mistake that led so many fans to tweet insults and worse at Watson was a pass. With the Bulls clinging to a one-point lead and less than 12 seconds remaining on the clock, Watson drove the ball hard on the break. As the 76ers' defense collapse on him, needing to foul, Watson dished the ball off to teammate Omer Asik. The Turkish center, who shot 46 percent from the line during the regular season, missed both attempts. Andre Iguodala grabbed the rebound from the second miss and raced down to the other end of the floor. He drew a foul, against Asik, before draining both of his freebies for a shocking win. Although the reaction was not as harsh, Asik also found himself targeted on Twitter.