GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The negativity within the Florida fan base for the direction of this team and program is palpable. On social media, on talk radio, etc.
But Gators coach Jim McElwain suggested Monday that the vitriol has crossed the line in regard to comments — including death threats, even — levied against players, coaches and their families.
He did not offer any specifics and declined to clarify whether he or his family, specifically, have been targets, who has received the threats or how they have been communicated.
The revelation came during McElwain’s response to a question originally posed in regard to whether his players deserve credit for their resilience in the face of mounting obstacles.
“Credit in this business is internal. It’s never external. I think it’s a pretty good kind of lesson for the way things are. There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it,” he said. “The hard part is, obviously, when the threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business we’re the ones that you take the shots at and that’s the way it is.”
McElwain was asked if he wanted to expound on the matter of death threats.
“No,” he said.
He later was asked if he could clarify whether he or his family specifically received death threats.
“Let’s move [on],” he said.
He was asked if there was any threat he felt the need to turn over to police.
“No. It is what it is,” he said.
Asked more generally about the level of negativity arising after a 3-3 start to the season, McElwain indicated he’s not surprised.
“Here’s the one thing, you’re in the business, that’s all part of it, you get it,” he said. “It’s when it’s directed toward your players, when it’s directed toward families, wives, that kind of thing. And yet, at the same time, they know what they signed up for as well, and that’s part of the business.”
A few players who followed McElwain at the podium Monday were asked for their reaction to the negativity swirling within the fan base.
None mentioned receiving any threats, but linebacker Kylan Johnson admitted it’s difficult to not hear what’s being said.
“We’re not really worried about that. We’re just going to keep moving forward. We got Coach Mac’s back. We’re just going to continue to be positive going forward,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to avoid it because it’s all on social media, but you’ve just got to ignore it and just stay positive.”
He and safety Chauncey Gardner Jr. offered the same sentiment, that people are going to think what they want and the players can’t get caught up in the outside noise.
“I can’t personally or we can’t do anything about how people think and how people go about things. That’s when we just stay focused and stay together as a team,” Johnson said.
Said Gardner: “You’ve got to let people think what they want to think. We don’t care. We’re playing football. … We’re not worried about outsiders.”