Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley says instances like the threatening messages Ohio State sophomore E.J. Liddell received following the team’s first-round upset from the NCAA tournament Friday is the ultimate reason why he’ll never join social media.
“You guys give me a hard time because I refuse to do any type of social media, this is the reason why,” Barkley said on the March Madness broadcast.
“Number one, he had a great game, but for you to give this kid death threats and hurl racial slurs at him because you’re safe in your own home like a coward, behind a computer and nobody know who you are, you need to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror,” Barkley added. “I am never gonna dignify these losers and interact with them ever, I don’t care how much money somebody offers me, I’ll never do social media because of this.”
Ohio State had to get the police involved after the No. 2-seeded Buckeyes fell 75-72 in overtime to No. 15 Oral Roberts and Liddell shared screenshots of the violent messages he said he received from two griping fans. One threated to find and attack Liddell, who had a team-high 23 points with 14 rebounds and five assists in the loss.
Another fan wrote to Liddell: “You are such a f—ing disgrace. Don’t ever show your face at Ohio State. We hate you. I hope you die I really do.”
In responding to the fans, Liddell asked, “What did I do to deserve this? I’m human.”
The Buckeyes coaching staff and athletic department both released statements Saturday morning in support of Liddell, promising action would be taken.
“These comments, while not from or representative of Ohio State fans, are vile, dangerous and reflect the worst of humanity,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “EJ is an outstanding young man who had a tremendous sophomore season and he was instrumental in our team’s success. We will take the necessary actions here at the University to address this immediately.”
Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith tweeted: “The threatening social media attack E.J. Liddell faced after the game yesterday is appalling and will not be tolerated.
“To the few of you who have chosen to inappropriately rail against our players on social media, stop. Hate and derision have no place in Buckeye Nation or in civil society. If you cross the line and threaten our players, you will be hearing from the authorities. That I promise you.”
The 20-year-old forward said he wasn’t fearful of the comments, but wants an explanation.
“This is not me saying anything negative about Ohio State fans,” Liddell said. “I love you all dearly and I’ve felt nothing but appreciated since the first day I stepped on campus.”