Blue Jays fan threatens Ted Rogers statue; gets visit from the police

Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a three-run home run in the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers in Game five of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 14, 2015 in Toronto. Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

A Toronto Blue Jays fan found himself in hot water over the weekend, after police paid him a visit in reference to a tweet he sent threatening to throw a statue of Ted Rogers into Lake Ontario if the team didn’t give superstar player Jose Bautista a new contract.

The tweet in question was sent weeks ago after Bautista announced he was “not willing to negotiate” his contract extension with the Blue Jays.

The message – which has since been deleted – read, “F**king pay the man or I’m throwing the Ted Rogers statue in the harbour you pieces of s**t,” referencing the life-sized bronze statue located outside the Rogers Centre.

But it seems the threat was taken quite seriously by Rogers. On Saturday, officers with Waterloo Regional Police showed up at 24-year-old Nicholas Kharshoum’s home and issued him a verbal warning about making threats to private property – a crime that could result in up to two years in jail.

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Kharshoum maintains he had no plans of trying to throw the 3.5-metre statue into the Toronto harbour.

In an interview with CBC, Kharshoum admitted the tweet was “dumb” and said it isn’t the only ill-advised heat-of-the-moment tweet he’s sent; however, he said having police track him down and identify him was “over the top.”

According Jenna Jacobson, social media researcher and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s faculty of information, the case highlights the importance of how our actions on social media can affect our offline lives.

READ MORE: How your social media posts could affect legal cases

“It’s important to assess the seriousness of threats online – but it’s [also] important that threats of violence online are taken seriously,” Jacobson told Global News.

Jacobson said law enforcement are still trying to figure out how to determine what can be construed as a legitimate threat on social media because things like humour and sarcasm can’t be detected.

“Humour and sarcasm are two of the most difficult things to determine offline because you are missing those visual or physical cues we have in person – like laughter,” she said.

However, the social media researcher said it’s important that users recognize that their online conversations are being monitored, especially as law enforcement and government agencies turn to social media to look for things like criminal activity and even terrorism.

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“This is a harsh reminder that our online expressions are monitored and if you are posting information publicly, it can be consumed publicly,” said Jacobson.

Toronto Police did not immediately return a request for comment regarding how Kharshoum was identified from his tweets; however, in a statement to The Toronto Star, Rogers – which is also Kharshoum’s service provider – said it did not provide his personal information or Internet Protocol (IP) address to police.

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