Basketball Referee Calls Lead To Death Threats & Fake Reviews

This story falls right into my sweet spot; the intersection of sports and reviews.1

mozcon local 2017 mike aaron
Aaron Weiche and I presented a basketball themed reviews talk at MozCon Local & LocalU 2017.

Fans Produce Fake Reviews

As you know2 the quality of the officiating in the critical Kentucky-North Carolina NCAA basketball game was called into question. John Calipari, Kentucky coach said of the 75-73 loss : “You know, it’s amazing that we were in that game where they practically fouled out my whole team.  Amazing that we had a chance.”

basketball ref reviews

Kentucky fans took that as a rallying cry and did what Kentucky fans apparently do in situations like this; issued death threats against the ref John Higgins. And of course, as good members of the tribe, they also tracked down the ref’s business and proceeded to trash his Facebook business page and Google listing with fake reviews.

A Few Fake Review Samples

Andrea Brinegar – in the last week
You suck! My roof fell in a week after you fixed it.

Tyler Scott – in the last week:
His roofing is a little one sided.

Christian McCarthy – in the last week:
I don’t mind Kentucky fans ruining this man’s business, because John Higgins is a crook. He’s caused athletic departments to lose money by directly controlling games and preventing championships of teams based on some agenda or because of some backdoor shady deals. This man does not care about you, your home, or doing the right thing. If he did he would retire from refereeing and focus on his business.

Fake Reviews To Fight Fake Reviews?

And then of course other people stepped in, in droves, to decry the inappropriateness of leaving fake reviews by leaving their own fake reviews:

Brian C. Sentz5 star
You should all be ashamed of yourselves, slandering this man’s business over a damn basketball game. You are all absolutely pathetic, disgraceful excuses of human beings. I am appalled.

A Call For Review Filters

Ok this is “crazy”. Sports fans are crazy. Arm chair defenders are a bit crazy. But even crazier is that neither Google nor Facebook have any protocols in place to know that a business is being “review bombed” for political (?) or social reasons3.

While it may be hard for humans to act decently on line, it should not be that hard to write an algo that flags these rapid run ups in reviews and alerts a human to take a look. Its time for Google and Facebook to “man up” in the review space and finally put in place reasonable filters to at least minimize these sorts of abuses and facilitate their rapid take down.

A personal foul shouldn’t turn into such a personal foul.

1  Sweet spot, hah! Feel free to read that first sentence again with a full sarcastic tone. I do know about reviews and I know next to nothing about sports but I found the story fascinating none the less. 

2 And um… I didn’t really know as I didn’t even know who won but I have a Google alert about Fake Reviews so it hit my radar.

3  I was going to say “B@t s#!t crazy” but was afraid that it might get censored. I am not sure that losing a sports event even rises to the level of political or social reasoning. In fact it’s hard to classify this as “reasoning” of any sort. 


About The Author

Mike Blumenthal is a co-founder of GatherUp and helps oversee our research, industry insight and agency offering. Mike has long been regarded as the foremost expert on local search and Google Maps, earning the nickname “Professor Maps”. Mike also co-founded Local University, which provides small business and agency training in sustainable local search marketing. His motto: All Local All the Time.  He writes at his blog and does a twice a week LocalU podcast about Local marketing. 

One Reply to “Basketball Referee Calls Lead To Death Threats & Fake Reviews”

  1. Hi Mike,

    I recently had a similar situation where a client received a negative review instructing suicidal behavior to the business owners. I can’t imagine being so worked up over missed scheduling appointment, but I guess it happens to some people.

    Any update on Google censoring or having a helpline for these inappropriate/violent reviews?

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