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Uproar over D’Angelo Russell liking anti-Lonzo Ball tweet speaks to larger issue: Stop stalking athletes

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This is the kind of thing that makes athletes hate fans.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

A weird trend has popped up as social media continues to shape what fans think they know about the athletes they root for. It’s reached a point where, honestly, professional athletes are probably better off staying off social media.

Fans can’t help themselves. The potential retweets and likes drive some to stalking.

Most recently, D’Angelo Russell found himself in the middle of one of the year’s dumbest “controversies” after a fan unearthed a tweet Russell liked regarding his potential future backcourt mate.

Russell is already one of the league’s most polarizing players thanks largely in part to his Snapchat situation with Nick Young, so you just knew those who already dislike him for whatever reason were going to jump on this latest example of the perceived off-court issues that have supposedly plagued his career.

Russell had previously sent a complimentary tweet about Lonzo Ball, but hey, once people’s minds are made up, they aren’t going to go out of their way to admit they might be wrong.

Regarding this tweet, Laker fans who already didn’t like either Russell or Ball tried to extrapolate some kind of further meaning about the former’s interest in playing with the latter.

The other factor is how drafting Ball might make one feel like Russell could be on his way out — especially to those who love to criticize him at every opportunity.

If you were Russell, though, how would you react if your employer was answering question after question about your possible replacement? The human element keeps getting overlooked.

Just take various drafts as an example. People love to forget how young players are when they’re drafted, let alone when an embarrassing tweet might have been sent years prior.

As soon as any prospect gets drafted, wait a few minutes and you’ll get a nice look back in time at tweets sent when they were a teenager. That’d be terrifying.

Of course, you’ll then get the “I can’t believe they haven’t scrubbed their account” reaction which, fine, but that feels like an excuse made to make those who find said embarrassing tweets feel better about going through years of posts to hopefully have their gotcha moment. It’s gross.

On the other hand, for athletes, it’s a great way to have fun with overly-serious fans. During the last trade deadline, the Boston Celtics sent all kinds of emojis for no other reason than to freak out their fans. It was great.

Those who showed annoyance as the emojis flooded their timelines displayed their own complete lack of self-awareness. If they weren’t following so closely, they wouldn’t open themselves up to get messed with.

Should athletes more closely monitor themselves knowing fans are always watching? Yes. Should fans always be watching, though? Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Otherwise, we’ll continue to create an environment in which athletes begrudge fans, as it becomes increasingly evident social media is just another outlet by which they can be harassed.