Penn State’s first loss of the 2019 season generated a lot of negative reaction on social media. Much of the anger was directed at quarterback Sean Clifford, who passed for 340 yards in the 31-26 defeat at Minnesota but whose third interception of the game ended the Nittany Lions’ last comeback hope.
“I know what type of position I’m in,” Clifford said Tuesday.
This time, however, some of the wrath crossed the line. Clifford said he received death threats, something his head coach, James Franklin, said was “troubling … and concerning for all of us.”
Clifford, a redshirt sophomore who has started all 10 games this season, made the revelation on a conference call as he discussed why he had deleted social media this week for the ninth-ranked Lions’ game Saturday at No. 2 Ohio State.
“I completely deleted it after the Minnesota game” on Nov. 9, he said. “It’s kind of sad to say how some fans get. It gets a little crazy. I was kind of sick and tired of getting death threats and some pretty explicit and pretty tough-to-read messages.
“But you learn how to deal with certain things and how certain people are going to react because it’s a very passionate game with a lot of passionate people. Our fans are definitely some of, if not the most, passionate fans in the country. So I just try to stay away from it.
“I appreciate all the positive people that are around, but there’s also people that try to tear you down. So I think it’s always been better to keep your head away from that kind of stuff.”
Clifford did not want to go into the details about the threats, preferring to “keep certain things confidential.”
Franklin also did not get into specifics.
“I was involved in it,” the coach said at his weekly media teleconference. “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.
“I don’t know where we are as a society. It’s concerning. We’re 9-1, we’re ranked in the top 10 I think, have had a pretty good year based on most people’s standards. Sometimes you go on social media and you wouldn’t feel that way. It’s not just our fan base, it’s all over.
“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. You see some things from a violence perspective. You see some things that 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.”
Tight end Pat Freiermuth said he had spoken with Clifford about the threats.
“I don’t think it affected him too much,” he said. “I think he just kind of went off social media and didn’t let it affect him.
“It’s kind of cruel for people to do that when we’re trying to make Penn State look good. It’s not like we’re trying to lose. Definitely upset when fans do that. It definitely hurts. But I kind of signed up for it. It is what it is.”