Opinion: Internet assault on athletes needs to stop | Opinion

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook has come under fire for his recent atrocious performances, rekindling a discussion about athletes and heightened criticism in the social media era.

When the Lakers play, Westbrook often trends on Twitter for all the wrong reasons. He usually trends under both his name or his nickname, “Westbrick.” “Brick” is a term in basketball meaning an ugly missed jump shot.

The former MVP is now a washed-up bricklayer who can’t be bothered to attempt to play defense 90% of the time. Every time he shoots, people in the arena people behave as if they’re witnessing a horrific car accident. He’s the primary reason for his team’s struggles and in all likelihood will be traded soon.

Despite this, Westbrook has remained composed in a situation that would crush most people. Being ridiculed online, turned into a punchline and universally despised by a massive fan base for ruining their team and staining the legacy of their franchise is a tough tide to remain stable under.

The general populace wouldn’t be able to stand such scrutiny. If the internet pilloried teachers when one of their students failed a standardized test, calling for them to be traded to another school district, they wouldn’t be able to handle it. The negativity would be crushing.

Imagine if a server at a restaurant became the target of an online attack campaign whenever they got an order wrong. They wouldn’t hold up under the pressure. They’d come home from work to open their phone to find that while they were at work their critics have come up with new names to belittle them. They’d start to lose confidence.

Picture a world where NASA engineers were lambasted every time they came into work a little late. They wouldn’t be able to stand it.

Westbrook detractors would say that these comparisons are not comparable because of how bad Westbrook is playing. They may say that his performances would be more akin to a teacher who scrolled through Instagram all year in place of any instruction or a server who accidentally burned down his restaurant or the engineers that worked on The Challenger.

This point may be true, but it doesn’t negate the value of basic human decency. Being one of the most detrimental players in NBA history shouldn’t make someone a villain. Society would benefit from a collective understanding that sports ultimately don’t matter.

They’re fun to watch, analyze and predict but that’s all it is: fun. If the Lakers lose every game this season, it won’t meaningfully affect their fans’ lives. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at their tweets.

There’s no need to contribute to the social media hate storm. When confronted with another inevitable vomit-inducing Westbrook performance, Lakers fans should remember to treat him with respect. He has shown resilience by not lashing out at any fans, but he shouldn’t have to deal with that.

Many athletes read their mentions, so any disgruntled social media users should keep that in mind when they post. Everyone would be better off if social media was a more positive place. Save the negativity for articles in the school newspaper.

Frank Kidd is a 21-year-old mass communication junior from Springfield, Virginia.

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