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James Franklin, Players React To Death Threats Sent To Sean Clifford

Penn State football head coach James Franklin and some of Sean Clifford’s teammates reacted to the post-Minnesota death threats that the quarterback revealed Tuesday morning.

Clifford said he normally deletes his social media apps from his phone closer to game days because of negative messages he receives throughout the week, but “completely deleted it” after the Minnesota game..

Franklin said he was involved in supporting Clifford through the threats, which he thinks are another example of a “concerning” part of American society. Franklin also compared the situation to one Sam Ficken went through in 2013. Ficken received death threats after missing four field goals and an extra point attempt in Penn State’s 17-16 loss to Virginia.

“I would hope I’m involved in any of these types of things where our players need support,” Franklin said. “My wife told me I wasn’t so subtle after the [Indiana] game, but when I was thanking the positive, loyal fans, that’s what I was trying to do a little bit. I don’t know where we are as a society. It’s concerning. We’ve had a pretty good year based on most people’s standards, but sometimes you go on social media and wouldn’t feel that way.”

Penn State’s sixth-year head coach definitely doesn’t think this type of thing is exclusive to Penn State — a fact that makes this situation all the more concerning.

“It’s not just our fanbase. It’s all over,” Franklin said. “I think the fact that everybody has a voice and the ability to contact others is concerning. I don’t know if I necessarily have the answers. It’s concerning. You hate to see it, but the sad thing, it’s a part of the reality of our society right now. You see that in a lot of areas. The last thing I want to do is get into other things besides football right now, but 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.”

Pat Freiermuth was also asked about the death threats made to his quarterback. Freiermuth, who’s one of Clifford’s favorite targets and ranks second on the Nittany Lions with seven touchdown receptions, said he discussed the threats with Clifford.

The tight end said the death threats “didn’t affect [Clifford] too much.” However, he couldn’t help but acknowledge how awful they were.

“It’s kind of cruel for people to do that when we’re trying to put on for the university and make Penn State look good,” Freiermuth said. “It’s not like we’re trying to lose. I’m definitely upset when fans do that. It definitely hurts. I mean, we kind of signed up for it. It is what it is.”

Ohio State football also held its weekly press conference on Tuesday, and starting quarterback Justin Fields — a former Penn State commit — was also asked about the threats.

On Saturday, Clifford and Fields will compete in one of college football’s top games of the 2019 season, but that didn’t stop the Buckeyes’ star sophomore from expressing his disgust for those who threatened Clifford.

“That’s just crazy to me,” Fields said. “I feel like people don’t understand athletes and our point of view. We’re more than an athlete, so just receiving death threats over a loss, that’s — I don’t even know what to say to that. That just blows my mind. Sean’s a great kid, a great guy. We’re friends, so just hearing that from him just blows my mind.

“I really don’t even know what to say to that because if that ever happened to me, I wouldn’t know what to do. That’s never happened to me before. But just hearing that and hearing that he had to go through that definitely really blows my mind. I’m really at a loss for words for that, to be honest.”

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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