How Not To React To Death Of Former Saints DE Will Smith On Twitter
The NFL community has been shaken by the murder of Will Smith, former Super Bowl Champion and Pro Bowl defensive end for the New Orleans Saints, who was shot to death while driving in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans on Saturday night. Smith was just 34 years old.
The shooting appeared to be the result of an incident spurred on by road rage, when suspected gunman Cardell Hayes rear-ended Smith's Mercedes with his Hummer H2. The ensuing confrontation resulted in Hayes pulling out a handgun and shooting Smith multiple times. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene. He is survived by his wife, who sustained two gun shot wounds to the leg in the shooting, and their three children.
Smith spent his entire nine-year career with the Saints after being drafted by the team in 2004, minus a short stint in training camp/preseason with the New England Patriots in 2014, and he was a popular player among Saints fans and well-known to NFL fans league wide.
Still, I'm sure it does not escape you that he shares a name with a very famous actor, with whom he was often confused in print form.
He even had a disclaimer in his Twitter bio, in which he explains to his 376k followers that he is "not to be confused with the actor Will Smith." Of course that still doesn't end confusion all the time, most especially on the internet. Which is fine. What isn't fine is how people addressed that confusion on Twitter.
In one of the worst displays of ignorance on the internet, people began tweeting their relief that the man murdered in New Orleans wasn't Will Smith the actor. Because when a young man with a family is murdered in cold blood, the right reaction is "thank god it wasn't the Fresh Prince of Bel Air." No seriously, people said that. A lot of people said that.
Yeah, it was just a football player guys. No big deal.
Then there's this nightmarish human who is disappointed that it wasn't the other Will Smith.
There are a disturbing amount of tweets out there that echo the same sentiment of gratitude that it's not the Will Smith. Here's a thought, if you are seeing that someone who you don't recognize was murdered and that many people are mourning the loss, maybe just shut up and don't say anything at all.
This isn't to say that it's not okay to be relieved that it wasn't Will Smith the actor. That's a completely fair and human reaction. But if the death of the actual person doesn't affect you in, it's tactless - and quite frankly a little horrifying - to share that fact on social media. You don't have to know and care about every celebrity equally, but you sure as hell shouldn't be minimizing someone else's life by undermining the impact of their death on others.
In fact, I'd venture to say that this is one of the worst things I have seen on social media in a while. The blatant insensitivity it takes to post tweets like the ones above somehow continue to bewilder and sadden me despite the enormous amount of time I spend on the internet. It's disheartening to realize just how little effort people are willing to put into disseminating information online and interpreting it accordingly; especially when someone has lost their life and wife is left without her husband and three children are left without their dad.
Of course, there are plenty of people across the country that did know and appreciate and love Will Smith for his contributions to football and his community.
Saints owners Tom and Gayle Benson released this statement on Sunday morning:
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Will and his wife Racquel, but more importantly with their children, William, Wynter and Lisa who are suffering and just starting to realize and deal with an unimaginable loss. We are devastated and saddened by Will's tragic and preventable death due to a senseless act that will leave a lasting scar on our community forever. Will was more than an exceptional football player he was a father, a husband, a son, a brother and teammate to so many and an inspiration to countless more. He will be greatly missed by all those he touched and impacted both on and off the football field and his legacy will continue to shine. TheSaints family is hurting and devastated as it has lost a member too young and too soon."
Smith's former head coach Sean Payton also put out a statement on Twitter.
The team's head of communications, Greg Bensel, used Twitter to not only memorialize Smith but also as a plea to fight senseless violence in the city.
"These senseless killings in our city MUST STOP- let's all rally now in earnest in Will Smith's honor & in his name to do something tangible," tweeted Bensel." The Benson's and the Saints have always been a safety net in our city to help, support and bail out- we will do our part in Will's name. #91"
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