Even though Kansas cornerback Chris Harris couldn’t ignore the yelling, he was able to walk away from it.
While returning to the locker room during KU’s game against Colorado, Harris and his teammates were cursed out by two KU fans. One told Harris it was time for him to leave KU.
Harris believed the fans were drunk, but if nothing else, he said it gave him motivation for the second half.
After trailing 35-10 at halftime, KU rallied for a 52-45 victory.
“Fans are going to give their opinion,” Harris said. “They have the right to give their opinion. There’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
Though Harris and his teammates could walk away from the hecklers, there are other negative comments that are becoming harder for college athletes to avoid.
Now, more than ever before, fans can become connected to their favorite players by following them on Facebook or Twitter.
Though athletes can control the information they send out, they can’t control what gets sent back to them by fans.
Earlier this month, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert had to delete a message off his Twitter account after he responded to a fan who was critical of his play against Nebraska.
KU receiver Daymond Patterson, who has more than 400 followers on his Twitter account, said he understood the risks when he decided to make his Twitter page public.
“I haven’t read anything too bad. A lot of the stuff doesn’t bother me on there,” Patterson said. “I just brush it off and keep going on about my business. We’ve all seen things like, ‘So and so should do this better. Why isn’t he doing this?’”
It’s often hard for athletes to shield themselves from the criticism.
For decades, coaches have preached to their players to avoid reading newspaper articles in an effort to keep them focused.
“To get the paper, you have to go and get it yourself and go read it,” Patterson said. “But when you’re on your phone, a lot of people ... they see if they’ve got a text message, log on to their Facebook, check their Twitter. Then when you pop up your Twitter or Facebook and you see that (criticism), it can get to some guys.”
This type of posting also is different than what athletes are used to. Trash talk from opposing teams’ fans is expected; however, most of the Twitter and Facebook negative comments originate from an athlete’s own fans.
“It’s sort of like your brother,” Patterson said. “If your brother starts talking bad about you, it hurts a little more than one of your enemies.”
Harris has seen this “Twitter trash talk” affect pro athletes as well. He’s followed Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens’ Twitter account this week as fans have been questioning his effort against the Indianapolis Colts. Owens, meanwhile, has lashed back.
Harris, who also has a Twitter account, said he isn’t surprised when fans make critical comments about their favorite teams online.
“If I see somebody on TV, I’m like, ‘Ah, man. He’s messing up,’” Harris said. “That’s what fans do. I’ve done it before when I was a fan.”
So why be on social media sites when there’s such a risk for negative comments?
Harris said it makes it easy to keep in touch with friends.
Patterson, meanwhile, likes getting feedback from family, friends and even KU fans that follow him.
He said that he receives at least as many positive comments as he does negative ones.
“It’s not always going to be good. It’s not always going to be bad,” Patterson said. “It goes both ways, and there are still fans out there, no matter how bad things are going to go, that say, ‘Hey guys, keep fighting. We’re still behind you. We’re going to be there no matter what.’”