Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell posted screenshots on Friday night of threatening messages that he received following the Buckeyes’ stunning first-round NCAA men's tournament loss to Oral Roberts earlier that day.
One fan called Liddell vulgar names and racial slurs and wrote that he intended to find Liddell and physically attack him. Another called Liddell a “f— disgrace” and warned, “Don’t ever show your face at Ohio State. We hate you. I hope you die I really do.”
A flabbergasted Liddell responded to the fans by writing, “Honestly, what did I do to deserve this? I’m human.” The 20-year-old added that he just wanted to know why someone would send messages so hateful.
“I’ve never done anything to anyone in my life to be approached like this,” he said.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith released a statement Saturday morning expressing support for Liddell and promising that threatening social media attacks will not be tolerated.
“Hate and derision have no place in Buckeye Nation or in civil society,” Smith said. “If you cross the line and threaten our players, you will be hearing from the authorities. That I promise you.”
A statement from Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann also condemned the social media attacks as “vile,” “dangerous” and representing “the worst of humanity.” Holtmann added that Ohio State “will take the necessary actions to address this immediately.”
Liddell was an odd choice for Ohio State fans to target considering he was by far the Buckeyes’ best player in the overtime loss. He scored 23 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out five assists, carrying an Ohio State team that otherwise played one of its poorest games of the season at the worst possible time.
Ohio State is the first No. 2 seed to lose in the NCAA tournament’s round of 64 since Michigan State fell to Giddy Potts and Middle Tennessee in 2016. No. 15 seeds were 8-132 all-time in the first round entering this year’s NCAA tournament.
Among the former Ohio State players to reach out to Liddell and offer support was former first-team All-American Jared Sullinger.
"Keep your head bro," Sullinger wrote. "Some ppl don’t see you as a human more like entertainment.. keep being the young man that you are bro."
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