AUBURN, Ala. (AP) – When Rashaan Evans reached under the table situated in the middle of Auburn High’s basketball court, he knew the moments that followed would disappoint some people.
“I feel like if I were going to go to any school there’s going to be some people that hate me,” Evans said Jan. 24.
He just didn’t know the backlash would be this bad.
In the week since Evans made his nationally televised announcement on ESPNU and signed his letter of intent with the University of Alabama on National Signing Day, the five-star Auburn High linebacker has been inundated with criticism, particularly on social media such as Twitter and Instagram, from some Auburn University fans who are upset about his decision to spurn his hometown university for the archrival Crimson Tide.
“We knew they were going to react negatively, but we didn’t realize they were going to react the way they have reacted,” Evans’ father, Alan Evans, said Tuesday. “It’s off the Richter scale as far as how they have scandalized our name and talked about our personal business.
“Just all of that is really disturbing to me. It’s kind of at the point now where it’s just sad.”
Some of the fans aren’t just berating Rashaan for signing with Alabama; some are personally attacking him by wishing injury upon him. Others, according to Alan, have taken to message boards to bring his family into the fray by calling for a boycott of his Corner Market store in Auburn and for local restaurants to not serve Rashaan.
Alan said he has read of or heard about many of those negative posts, but hasn’t experienced any issues yet with people boycotting his business or refusing service at restaurants – he doesn’t eat out often – but said that Rashaan has run into problems the last week.
“You thought that Auburn people were bigger than this as far as the way they handled this whole situation,” Alan said. “Rashaan made a decision to go to Alabama because that’s what he wanted to do and that’s where he wanted to be. Every person in America should be able to go where they want to go, when they want to go and how they want to go.”
Attempts to reach Rashaan were unsuccessful Tuesday afternoon, but his father said the outcry over the decision has put a damper on what should have been a proud moment for the Auburn High standout and his family.
According to Alan, it has been particularly disheartening for Evans’ family, which has lived in Auburn for quite some time, with Rashaan and his siblings being born and raised in the area.
“It’s just a sad, sad day to me because Auburn people have always been the most resilient people,” Alan said. “They’ve been the ones who would be the first ones to come and aid people when there’s a disaster, like when there was a disaster at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, it was Auburn people who went over there and were some of the first responders to help.
“But this day I think we have taken a serious step backwards.”
That’s not to say all Auburn fans have lashed out at Rashaan and his family; it has only been a select group that has been out of line in their reactions. Others have shown their support regardless of the decision, with Rashaan retweeting many of those fans on his Twitter account in the last week.
“When you’re a high-profile kid, you’re going to deal with (the outrage),” Opelika head football coach Brian Blackmon said. “It’s not right. Recruiting has become its own sport. . It’s tough.”
Rashaan’s situation isn’t necessarily unique – plenty of other 17- and 18-year-old high school recruits receive backlash for their decisions in this day and age – but it isn’t the norm either.
Opelika four-star defensive back Stephen Roberts, an Auburn signee who was committed to Alabama until late November, said he didn’t receive much, if any, criticism from fans when he flipped his commitment.
“I didn’t notice anything, but I know some people said stuff like they were just happy for me,” Roberts said Tuesday. “But it wasn’t anything bad.”
As a new member of what Tigers fans called the “Auburn Family,” Roberts wishes fans would have afforded Rashaan that same courtesy when he made his decision.
“(Rashaan) made the best choice for him,” Roberts said. “If he had let someone else make his decision, I don’t think he would be happy. I don’t think that’s right what people are doing to him.”
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