Blue Jays fan threatens to toss Ted Rogers statue into harbour, prompting police response
Rogers contacts police after several online threats, including one involving arson
Police officers showed up at a Blue Jays fan's door after he threatened on Twitter to throw the Ted Rogers statue into Lake Ontario if the team doesn't give slugger Jose Bautista a new contract.
Nicholas Kharshoum, a 24-year-old who lives in Kitchener, Ont., wasn't charged but was given a verbal warning by Waterloo Regional Police officers, who showed up at his family home around 8:30 a.m. Saturday on behalf of Toronto police.
Kharshoum, who was dressed in sweatpants and watching an English soccer match in the basement, said he was surprised to see police officers at his door. When they told him they were there because of his tweet threatening the Rogers Centre statue, Kharshoum said he immediately rolled his eyes.
"I can see how it was taken legitimately, but I definitely don't think it should have been," he told CBC News.
On Feb. 22, Karshoum, who goes by @Torontohooligan on Twitter, posted: "F**king pay the man or I'm throwing the Ted Rogers statue in the harbour you pieces of s**t."
The tweet linked to a video of Bautista — who is seeking a new multi-million dollar deal before his contract with the Rogers-owned Blue Jays ends at the end of this season — saying he felt he'd given the Blue Jays a "hometown discount" already.
After Bautista's heroics in the playoffs last fall, many Blue Jays fans have called on the team to keep the right-fielder, but there's some suspicion that Rogers won't give team management enough money to sign him.
Kharshoum said his angry tweet about the situation was written in the spur of the moment, and that he has no plans whatsoever to damage the four-metre tall, 360-kilogram statue of the late Rogers president and CEO.
"I know that I said something dumb, and it is not the only dumb thing I've said on the internet," he admits, bringing up another recent post where he suggested a soccer analyst should jump in front of a train — an exaggeration he doesn't really believe in.
But, Kharshoum said, to have police track down his identity to issue him a warning is "over the top."
Rogers alerted police
Toronto police Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said Rogers Centre security alerted authorities about Kharshoum's threat and at least one other. Both threats were investigated by the cyber crimes unit.
Douglas-Cook said while some people may say police overreacted, damaging property is a criminal offence.
"If there is a threat of any kind reported to us … then it's taken seriously," Douglas-Cook said.
While there is freedom of expression, she continued, people are responsible for what they post online.
The second tweet, which has since been deleted, was posted by someone using the handle @Corytrevor22 and contains more threatening language.
"Remember who made you rich," the tweet, addressed to Rogers, said.
"If you fail to pay @JoeyBats19 we will ruin you. I will burn every Rogers vehicle I see. Don't f**k us," it said.
Douglas-Cook said the person who runs that account was visited by police as well, but didn't release their identity.
Rogers: 'We always err on the side of caution'
The Blue Jays play their first home game of the 2016 season on April 8. Douglas-Cook said the upcoming game — often a sold out and raucous affair — didn't factor in to the police's decision to investigate the threats.
A Rogers spokesperson said it's fine for Jays' fans to blow off steam online, but not to threaten violence.
"We always err on the side of caution when the safety of our employees, property or fans at the Rogers Centre is threatened," said spokesperson Jennifer Kett, in an email to CBC News.
Kett added that Rogers has recently spoken with police about several violent threats made against the company's property and staff. How police handle those investigations is up to them, Kett said.
"We defer to police to comment on the specifics of any investigation."
Kharshoum, who has followed the Blue Jays since 1994 and often goes to games, said he plans to be more careful with what he writes in the future and may also take additional steps to shield his privacy online.
"I was definitely concerned about their ease of getting my information," he said, adding the whole situation reminds him of the idea of "big brother."
So I just had an interview with CBC Toronto about my tweets. They asked me if I was going to be more careful about my tweets.—@TorontoHooligan
I mean, yeah, probably. This was kinda scary.—@TorontoHooligan