Rashaan Evans story shows college football fans have got to leave players alone

Five-star Rashaan Evans surprised by picking Alabama over Auburn on National Signing Day. - ESPNU

The five-star signee from Auburn High elicited some awful, stupid backlash after a stunning commitment to Alabama. This has got to stop.

Have y'all lost your damn minds?

I'm not talking to all Auburn fans—I'm not even talking to most Auburn fans. But too many Auburn fans apparently need to have another talk about fan civility. So here it is: harassing athletes you don't like doesn't make you a better fan. It just makes you an asshole.

The local villain du jour in Auburn, Alabama is not a murderer, not a criminal of any sort, nor a man of deep moral turpitude. No, the target of local scorn is Rashaan Evans, a consensus five-star outside linebacker from Auburn High School who chose to go to the best football school in the nation, instead of to the closest. It was a surprise choice, but it was his choice.

For that grave insult, Evans reports that he and his family have been the subject of persistent harassment from some of the townspeople who wanted to see him in navy blue and burnt orange. To wit:

And this from TideSports.com:

"It's getting worse," Evans said on Monday evening. "Someone actually put out an article about my family's business telling all Auburn fans not to go there. We are going to eventually start losing money. People are telling restaurants in the town not to serve us.

"It's hard for me to go out and chill with my friends like I have always done because people keep coming up to me telling me I made a bad decision. It's grown men. They are asking me why I did this to them. I told them I had to do what is best for me.

His mentions on Twitter, up until he spoke up, were about what you'd expect for a player who chose the archrival of his expected destination. Since then, they've been filled with support from both Alabama and Auburn fans, but too many idiotic comments are still slipping through.

More from TideSports.com:

"It's just crazy right now. What's getting crazy is people are going to the board at my school trying to get me in trouble. They are telling my teachers I am a bad kid and all this stuff. It's just bad right now.

"Social media has definitely been the worst. People on Instagram are telling me how they hope I tear my ACL in game one. They will laugh when I do. They are saying my family is horrible and how they didn't raise me right. It's just crazy."

But that harassment is not just something to regard as fans being fans. It's just harassment. It's immoral and ugly. If you consider that part of fandom, stop being a fan. You make sports worse with your presence, and you debase the program you claim to support.

This, of course, is not an Auburn-only problem. Auburn's Rivals site, AuburnSports.com, published a story the very same day on Tre Williams and Deshaun Davis, who offered this account of fan backlash:

Deshaun Davis, like Williams, signed with Auburn and was raised in Mobile. He's dealt with his fair share of fan criticisms after committing to Auburn and even following his ACL injury. Davis handled it with maturity of that of someone older than a 17-year old.

"Right after I committed, I injured my ACL and I'm having Alabama fans taunting me about my injury," Davis said. "But I don't respond. People are going to talk regardless, I don't really care. I save the comments and use them as motivation, that's it.

"Tre got the same thing. Stephen got it worse because he flipped, Kalvaraz (Bessent), too. It's just another day in the recruiting game. Move on."

Who taught anyone it's okay to talk to a stranger like that? A stranger who's still in high school, to boot. What a ridiculous disregard for an athlete's humanity. It shouldn't require maturity beyond the average 17-year-old's to navigate a day of the recruitment process. Harassment should not be part of "just another day."

And let's say that Alabama fans did treat Auburn's recruits as badly as a few members of Auburn's fan base are treating Evans right now. So what? Do you look at someone else's despicable behavior as an example of what not to do, or as an excuse to indulge your own awful urges?

It's time to grow up. You can be a great, supportive, awesome fan without treating a high school kid or his family like garbage. Focus on your own team. Do right by them.

Make your team's players be proud to be part of the program. Give other teams and their fan bases something to admire, not revile.

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National Signing Day’s biggest winners and losers

Bill Connelly: Missouri gains yet another reason to take pride in Sam

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