An English woman with the same name as an American footballer who cost his team the AFC championship has had angry fans abusing her.
Dee Ford, from Gillingham, Kent, woke up to hundreds of Twitter notifications on Monday morning, with many Kansas City Chiefs fans blaming her for ruining their year.
The 47-year-old dog lover had been asleep, so it was a fairly surprising accusation.
She quickly discovered that Dee Ford, the Chiefs’ veteran linebacker, gave away a penalty after lining up offside during a critical late play in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots.
The penalty overturned an interception that would have seen the Chiefs win the match and progress through to the Superbowl.
“The phone was going off literally nonstop,” Ms Ford told the Kansas City Star.
“Some of the things were quite vicious. The things they’re saying – he doesn’t deserve it.”
For most people, including professional sportsmen, that amount of blame and vitriol would be enough to make them crumble.
But Ms Ford has become used to being on the receiving end of such anger from fans, having first experienced it five years ago when Ford, 27, was playing for Auburn University in Alabama – when she had never watched an American Football game.
Ford – the footballer – has his own Twitter account but has never tweeted, so Ms Ford gets most of the abuse.
She has taken it in her stride, joking along with fans and using her charm to make them realise the offensive tweets are unnecessary.
Having never seen an American football game before the case of mistaken identity, she decided the best way to deal with it was to learn, so she watched some games and even bought a book to learn the rules – then was “completely hooked”.
“I try to be funny with it,” she said.
“If I didn’t take it that way, it might be quite upsetting. I’m glad I’m taking the flack and he’s not, because some of the things are quite nasty. I wouldn’t want him to see it.”
Ms Ford’s approach has been invaluable in overcoming the hate and she has made many new friends and is now a Chiefs fan herself.
She tweeted to her 5,500 followers after the latest escapade: “I just wanted to say, that over the past week, I have had the kindest, funniest, most wonderful tweets.
“Despite the nasty ones, the nice ones have far outweighed them.
“A few amazing Auburn and Chiefs people have made time to DM and make sure I’m ok, and have made me laugh to the point of happy tears, particularly those in the #AUfamily.”
She thanked them for their friendship and said despite the thousands of miles between them “you’d never know that was the case”.
She has also spoken to Ford himself over the phone and said: “He’s genuinely one of the nicest people. He’s always been good about this. He’s a really humble young man.”
Ms Ford has even been over to the US to watch Auburn play. In 2015, she went to see the Chiefs at Wembley, where she met his family.
(c) Sky News 2019: American football fans abuse English woman with same name as linebacker