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The San Francisco 49ers' NFC title loss to the New York Giants left a lot of Niners fans heartbroken -- and angry. Now punt returner Kyle Williams is receiving death threats via Twitter.
In case you missed it, Kyle Williams' fumble in overtime led to the Giants' field goal that won the NFC Championship, 20-17. Afterwards, Niners teammates "kind of patted me on the back and said, 'It's not all on your shoulders,'" Williams gamely told reporters after the game.
But some fans felt differently, and posted death threats on Twitter. Some fans may even have crossed a legal line with their threatening tweets, for example:
"I hope you, your wife, kids and family die, you deserve it," one Kyle Williams death threat said. (However, Williams is single and has no children, ESPN reports.)
"I hope you die in your sleep tonight," read another.
Yet another fan tweeted: "Jim Harbaugh, please give @KyleWilliams_10 the game ball. And make sure it explodes when he gets in his car."
While Twitter offers fans a way to react and interact with football stars, what's said in a tweet could set you up for some dire legal consequences.
Laws in all 50 states prohibit threats aimed at intimidating or menacing others, in speech or in writing. In general, state laws make it illegal to threaten:
Prosecutors can pursue criminal assault charges if a threat is accompanied with imminent physical harm. A victim can also file civil lawsuits alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress caused by threats.
Some jurisdictions also have specific laws that allow threatened victims to sue for damages without claiming emotional distress.
San Francisco police have yet to comment about Kyle Williams' death threats, and no charges have been filed. "It certainly makes you question our culture of sports as it stands," Williams' father, Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, told ESPN.