Ordered to get mental health treatment
A former sports bettor received a lenient sentence of three years’ probation for sending threatening messages to professional baseball players two years ago. Benjamin Tucker Patz, also known as “Parlay Patz,” must also serve six months of home detention, submit to drug testing, and complete a mental health course of treatment. Naturally, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday also said Patz is no longer permitted to gamble.
The 24-year-old Patz was reportedly contrite in his Thursday court appearance, saying: “I’d like to apologize to the victims. Not only the ones in the plea, but all the victims.”
He added that he understands how much pain his messages may have caused and that he would be “devastated” if his parents, who were present during the hearing, received the same sorts of threats.
I feel like I ignored so many things for so long.”
“I feel like I ignored so many things for so long,” Patz lamented, saying that he has been trying to make positive changes in his life.
Though Patz could have received prison time, Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Scruggs did not push for it, preferring that Patz take care of his mental health and stop gambling.
“There is no evidence that he had the intent to follow through on any of his threats,” Scruggs said.
Sent death threats
The case dates back to July 20, 2019, when Patz sent threatening direct messages on Instagram to four players on the Tampa Bay Rays and one on the Chicago White Sox after the Sox beat the Rays. Among the threats he made were that he would “sever your neck open,” “kill your entire family,” and “I will enter your home while you sleep.”
Authorities suspected Patz of sending over 300 threats to both college and professional athletes, including some to New England Patriots players after he allegedly lost $10,000 on Super Bowl LIII (which New England won). He pleaded guilty in March to one count of transmitting threats in interstate or foreign commerce, a plea related only to the threats against the five players after the Rays/White Sox game.
Federal agents tracked Patz down because he did not cover his tracks. Patz sent the July 20 threats from a “@b82hs9” Instagram account from a Sacramento, California IP address. A few hours later, he signed into his “@parlaypatz” Instagram account and his personal Yahoo! e-mail account from the same IP address. He was living in Napa, California which, sure enough, is only about 60 miles from Sacramento.
Ugly fan behavior has recently escalated
While the Patz case is extreme, poor fan behavior toward athletes is a tale as old as time. Online, fans can hide behind the anonymity of the keyboard. In person, fans often feel they are entitled to do and say what they want because they paid for their tickets. But in the past week, with fans finally returning to arenas as the pandemic eases in the United States, disgusting and potentially dangerous incidents have come one after the other during the NBA playoffs.
On May 26, Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook left the game in Philadelphia with an ankle injury. When he reached the opening of the tunnel leading to the locker room, a fan dumped popcorn on him. Security had to hold back the irate star.
That same day, a New York Knicks fan in the second row at Madison Square Garden spat at the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young. Young said he didn’t feel it (it definitely hit a woman in the first row), but that’s besides the point.
In a third incident that Wednesday, fans in Utah taunted the family of Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant.
On Sunday, May 30, a Boston Celtics fan threw a bottle of water at the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving. The 21-year-old fan, identified as Cole Buckley, has been charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
And finally, on May 31, a man rushed the court in Washington, D.C. When he turned around to go back the way he came, he was tackled back onto the court by a security guard. The stunt was ultimately harmless, but had he had ill intent, he could have easily hurt a player, coach, or referee.
Westbrook said he understands that hearing it from fans is part of being a professional athlete, but things have gotten out of hand recently.
It’s part of sports; I get it. But there are some things that cross the line.”
“I’m all for fans enjoying the game. It’s part of sports; I get it. But there are some things that cross the line,” he said. “In any other setting, I know for a fact that fans … wouldn’t come up, a guy wouldn’t come up on the street and pour popcorn on my head. Because we’d know what happen.”