Most Saturdays in the fall, thousands of people covered in red flock to Memorial Stadium and begin their weekly chant, ‘Go Big Red!’ With the longest sellout streak in the country, Huskers fans have made a name for themselves as a loyal, passionate group of people who bleed Big Red.
But one issue with bleeding Big Red occurs when blood runs too thick.
Carson Kaufman, a 28-year-old Lincoln native and a 2014 University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate, remains a loyal fan with pure intentions in his online fan-chatter.
“For me, supporting the Huskers is mostly a family tradition and something that exists to strengthen bonds with my family and friends. Often, it’s just a nice way to spend an afternoon with others,” Kaufman said.
But beneath the pure fandom lies a dark underbelly of the Huskers fandom that is becoming increasingly toxic.
“It’s a growing trend on social media because people can remain anonymous. And if they start getting beaten up too badly, they’ll just delete their comment, move to a different board and it’s all over,” Kaufman, an active social media-poster said.
From nasty Twitter responses to threatening comments in Facebook fan groups, some fans have started spreading hatred to anyone who disagrees with their opinions online.
One Husker fan who is in a Facebook group called “Husker!!!! Power!!!!” and asked to remain anonymous said, “I get really into the game. The thing is, I grew up being a Husker fan. When I see other people on the Facebook page not supporting our team enough, it really can get me upset.”
Many Facebook groups like ‘Husker!!!! Power!!!!’ have hundreds or even thousands of frequent members. These toxic fans are still a minority of the fandom, though. A lot of Huskers fans are well-intentioned, supportive people who simply wants their team to succeed.
“Nebraska fans are so passionate because I think a lot of us invest ourselves in the team. We end up putting our time, sometimes money, a lot of our emotion, just a lot of us into the results of those games,” Kaufman said.
Fans start behaving like this when they feel like the only ‘true’ fans around, turning fans against each other. This is why the behavior increases when Nebraska teams struggle.
“I just think that you have no business being in fan groups unless you’re really willing to be a diehard,” the anonymous Facebook-poster said. “True fans will stick with us through thick and thin, and if you’re not doing that, go be a bandwagon fan somewhere else.”
These homers will often take out their frustration on players, coaches, reporters and even other fans. Toxic fandoms are not unique to Huskers football, though. Toxic fans devour content from every sport, team and even league.
For now, though, it seems as long as teams continue to struggle, fans will continue to complain online.