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Lopez: Stop normalizing death threats against athletes

Colorado+State+University+defensive+back+Henry+Blackburn+%2811%29+has+been+the+target+of+many+death+threats+after+his+hit+against+Travis+Hunter+Sept.+16.
Collegian | River Kinnaird
Colorado State University defensive back Henry Blackburn (11) has been the target of many death threats after his hit against Travis Hunter Sept. 16.

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Over the past few weeks, the Colorado State University football team has been receiving a lot of media attention after the Rocky Mountain Showdown, specifically in regard to the death threats being made against defensive back Henry Blackburn. Every story about it seems to be discussing the death threats as though it is just a normal issue.

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It’s hard to know the actual number of death threats being made against athletes every day simply because they are not reported. As tennis player Shelby Rogers said in the Redwood Bark student newspaper, “I’m going to have 9 million death threats and whatnot. … At this point in my career, I’d say I’m used to it.”

Many people have written about the athlete behind the uniform like the Redwood Bark did. But has anyone ever questioned why death threats are so normalized against people who are involved in one of the most beloved professions in the United States?

Henry Blackburn is one of thousands of students who signed up for college sports knowing they might one day receive a death threat. However, is harassment something college athletes and their families should have to go through simply because of one play in a game?

In my opinion, the rightful answer is no. The idea of threatening to kill a young student-athlete is not only unjust but can also have a large impact on the mentality of the athlete.

The aggressive nature of college athletes — who are playing in some of the biggest games of their careers — often attracts unnecessary death threats from people online. Just because college athletes make a controversial play in their sport does not mean outsiders have the right to threaten them, especially when they are unaware of what the athletes may be dealing with personally.

Deion Sanders, the head football coach at the University of Colorado Boulder, said Blackburn shouldn’t receive death threats over a game. Sanders mentioned that he has received death threats during his time in the industry as well. After hearing Sanders’ statement condemning the death threats against Blackburn, it is clear that the situation required a strong and commanding voice in order to deescalate the heated discourse online.

Getting the opportunity to play sports at the Division I collegiate level is not only a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it is also an opportunity that comes with a lot of privilege, capability and the chance to be seen on a national scale by millions of viewers.

Directing death threats at college athletes and people in general is not only wrong, but it is also unfair to the players. As fellow human beings watching this situation play out in the media, we should recognize and understand that this is not normal and shouldn’t be part of sports culture — rather, it should just not happen.

Reach Dominique Lopez at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @caffeinateddee6.

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About the Contributor
Dominique Lopez
Dominique Lopez, Opinion Editor

Dominique Lopez is a third-year journalism student minoring in women’s studies and is currently the opinion editor for The Collegian.

Lopez is originally from Alamosa, Colorado, and moved to Fort Collins to attend Colorado State University. While in Fort Collins, Lopez has spent her time working for The Collegian and is a swim instructor and front desk associate at Splash Swim School.

When Lopez isn’t working or attending classes, you can find her at home reading a good book, stress baking in her kitchen or binge-watching her favorite TV shows.

She chose journalism as her field of study in the hopes that it would bring her closer to the community and provide her with the opportunity to write about what is really affecting her in that moment. Some topics she is passionate about are social justice, gender studies and finding ways to honor her community and origins through her education.

As the opinion editor, Lopez hopes to inspire new writers to be able to find their true passions in writing, as well as diversify the topics that are written about in The Collegian’s opinion section and iscuss thoughts on important issues that impact the students at Colorado State University.

Lopez is excited to pursue this new year of journalism and is eager to see what the year will bring, especially as she continues to meet new journalists pursing topics they are passionate about.

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