Penn State QB Sean Clifford says he received death threats after loss to Minnesota
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford said Tuesday morning that he received death threats via social media after the Nittany Lions suffered their first loss of the season to Minnesota on Nov. 9.
Clifford said he deleted his social media after the 31-26 loss.
“It’s kind of sad to say, but you know how some fans get. It gets a little crazy,” Clifford said. “I was, kind of, sick and tired of getting death threats and some pretty explicit and pretty tough-to-read messages.”
Clifford declined to say whether he reported the threats to authorities. Coach James Franklin also failed to say whether police had been informed, but he said he was aware of the situation.
“I’m not going to get into a whole lot of it, but I was involved in it,” Franklin said. “I would hope I’m involved in any of these types of things where our players need support and then we make sure they get the right type of support.”
The topic was broached when Clifford said he didn’t know until Tuesday morning that No. 9 Penn State (9-1) had been installed as a 19-point underdog for its marquee matchup with No. 2 Ohio State (10-0) on Saturday because he hadn’t been paying attention to social media.
Reaction to Clifford’s revelation was focused in several different directions.
Most obviously, sentiment was unanimous that making death threats is not appropriate fan behavior.
“It’s kind of cruel for people to do that when we’re trying to (perform) for the university and make Penn State look good,” tight end Pat Freiermuth said. “It’s not like we’re trying to lose.”
Common decency aside, there’s the question of whether Penn State fans have a right to be upset about the team’s performance in the first place.
The Nittany Lions are 54-22 since Franklin took over as coach and have put together four consecutive nine-win seasons. They’ve played in the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Citrus Bowl the last three years.
They’re also 2-9 against top-10 teams during that span and are 1-7 against ranked teams on the road.
“We’re 9-1. We’re ranked in the top 10, I think,” Franklin said. “We’ve had a pretty good year based on most people’s standards, and sometimes you go on social media and you wouldn’t feel that way.”
Franklin took it one step further, saying he thought the situation was emblematic of widespread problems away from the football field.
“You see a lot of things that are behaviors in our society now that we accept that I don’t know why we’re accepting,” Franklin said. “You see some things from a violence perspective. You see some things from people in positions, how they’re conducting themselves. Just a lot of things that we’re accepting in our society that we would never have accepted before, the things that parents have to worry about kids going to school, going to elementary school, it’s just concerning.
“Obviously football is a very, very small piece, but I do think it’s a microcosm of a lot of issues that show up in our society. And I’m not sure why we accept it or why we think it’s OK. Whether you’ve had 14 Budweisers or not, I’m not sure why it’s OK or acceptable.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .