Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A t-shirt worthy of death threats?

I know that sports fans take victory pretty seriously, and often don't handle defeat well, not to mention when people needle their teams. But sometimes people take things a little too far.

Case in point: this t-shirt, which was being sold by a company called Warpaint Clothing.

But first, a little history lesson for those of you unfamiliar with the NBA. Before the 2008-2009 NBA season, the Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Oklahoma City Thunder. (This happened only after the new Oklahoma City-based owners failed to find public funding to construct a new arena in the Seattle area.) The SuperSonics played rather poorly in recent years, although in earlier days the franchise won the NBA championship in 1979. And now, as the Thunder, the team is headed to the Western Finals, where if they beat the San Antonio Spurs, they'll be in contention for the championship once again.

Oklahoma City isn't known as a sports city, so you can understand the excitement about the Thunder's amazing run this season. So given the smack sports fans like to spread, wouldn't you expect a snarky t-shirt like this to be sold? (Everything gets sold on the internet. Remember, this is the same country in which a company sold Trayvon Martin targets.)

But the wounds are still fresh for Seattle fans, apparently, which isn't too surprising, considering that Baltimore football fans are still bitter about the Colts leaving for Indianapolis, even though the Ravens have been pretty successful through the years.

While the bitterness may be understandable, the reaction from Seattle fans is not: Warpaint Clothing personnel reported they were receiving death threats because of the shirt.

Say it with me now: death threats. Over a t-shirt. Needless to say, Warpaint announced it would no longer sell the t-shirt because of the response they had received.

Did I miss something? Have we experienced some sort of Freaky Friday-like switch with Iran or Iraq all of a sudden, so now people feel that producing a t-shirt is worthy of death? What's next, stoning adulterers or cutting off the hands of thieves? Does the anonymity of the internet incubate this type of behavior, or has the rage level in our country ratcheted up to such a level that even t-shirts mocking the loss of a basketball franchise provokes this kind of anger?

Whatever the cause, this is becoming a dangerous problem. While you wouldn't expect a person sitting behind their computer threatening people who do things they don't like with death would actually do something, who knows what could trigger actual violence?

All I know is, I'd love to see the Miami Heat walk away without a championship for another year, and if Duke's men's basketball team never made it past the first or second round of the NCAA Tournament, that would be fine with me. (And don't get me started about Roger Federer and Tiger Woods.) But that being said, I don't plan to threaten Coach K or King James with death...voodoo dolls are more than satisfactory. (Note to the authorities monitoring this blog: that's a joke.)

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