LINCOLN, Neb. —
DeShazo said denigrating messages should be ignored, even though the inclination would be to respond. “You can never win going back and forth with these people. They want you to do that,” he said.
Some athletes will retweet hateful messages so other fans can take on the source of outrageous comments. “It breeds compassion,” DeShazo said. “Fans will turn on that person.”
Of course, athletes can easily block people who are out of line from posting messages on their platforms.
Though the common perception of college football players is one of toughness, a steady stream of hate directed at a player after a bad game is akin to the cyberbullying that afflicts teenagers, Sanderson said.
Nebraska receiver Quincy Enunwa acknowledged he and his teammates can’t resist looking at their phones after games to see what fans are saying. If comments are too negative, Enunwa shuts his off for a while.
“When people are telling you things after a loss, you hear it so many times, you’re going to start to believe it,” Enunwa said.
Some players aren’t disciplined enough to put their phones down.
“Most kids that age, whether an athlete or not, are invested in what people are saying about them,” Sanderson said. “Love it or hate it, Twitter lets us know what people are saying about us, and when you see stuff like that, it can take a toll on you.”
Associated Press freelance writer Jake Kreinberg in Columbia, Mo., and AP writer David Mercer in Champaign, Ill., contributed to this report.