New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is one of the more fan-friendly professional athletes when it comes to social media — and, because of that, it’s quite possible he saved some lives this week.
Edelman reportedly received a note on Instagram from one of his followers recently. That follower brought a threatening message to the wide receiver’s attention.
On one of Edelman’s posted Instagram photos, someone had commented, “I’m going to shoot my school up … watch the news.”
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Edelman alerted his assistant to the threat — and the assistant, in turn, called the police.
From there, law enforcement tracked down the person behind the message: a 14-year-old boy from Port Huron, Michigan.
The teen, who had access to a pair of firearms, reportedly admitted to police that he posted the message on Edelman’s Instagram account. The police brought him into a juvenile detention center — and he’s being charged with making a false threat of terrorism, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
Had Edelman not been looking at his messages and his assistant not reported the incident, it is entirely possible the world could have been reading about yet another school shooting.
“With the emotions of what happened — and I have a kid now — I said, ‘Holy Toledo, what is going on?'” Edelman said to Time magazine about the incident. “Thankfully, this kid [the follower who alerted Edelman to the threatening message] said something.”
The athlete added, “We’re going to send him something, a care package, just for his work. He’s the real hero.”
What Edelman did is a prime example of an athlete’s using his public platform for good. Players work incredibly hard to make it to the top level of their chosen profession, so they have the spotlight of the national media on them for a few years. Some people use that spotlight to try to bring people together and make the world a better place — while others use it to divide America and for personal or political gain.
Edelman seems like he has done the former thus far in his career.
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All teams and athletes are given the choice of how they want to use their platforms. The Houston Astros donated $4 million to Hurricane Harvey relief, for example. Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora had it written into his newest contract that the team would send a planeload of relief items to Puerto Rico to help residents recover from Hurricane Maria — and former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling raised and donated over $9 million for ALS research during his career.
Then, of course, there are those who use their platform to disrespect American troops and most of America by kneeling for the national anthem as it plays just before a pro football game — as Colin Kaepernick did more than once.
Some people use the spotlight to try to bring people together and make the world a better place — while others use it to divide America.
Others obsessively attack President Donald Trump — people like LeBron James, Gregg Popovich, Kevin Durant, and others. Sure, some players donate to charity — but those generous actions don’t erase or excuse divisive words and actions.
What Julian Edelman did in this latest case almost surely helped make the world a safer and better place.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.