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The University of Florida football team is having a very bad, no fun football season. That’s true.
But it’s fake news that the Gators said they don’t want to play their traditional post-Thanksgiving rivalry game with Florida State University.
"UF requests to cancel rivalry game against FSU," read the headline on a post we first saw Nov. 7, 2017, on React365.com. Facebook users flagged the story as being potentially fabricated as part of the social network’s efforts to curb fake news.
The brief article, attributed to "Patrick Jones - Sports Writer," said that the Gators are looking for a little mercy from the Seminoles after a terrible season.
As of this writing, the Gators had a 3-5 record. Florida head coach Jim McElwain was fired Oct. 29 after a season fraught with controversy and disappointment. Florida State also had a 3-5 record at the time of the article.
The fake story said: "When asked why they were considering canceling the game, a spokesman for the UF Athletic Department stated, ‘Though both programs are struggling this year, dealing with injuries and academic disciplinary action, there is no need in embarrassing the UF Athletic program further by subjecting our already mediocre team to a game that would further humiliate the morale and enthusiasm of our student body.’ "
The University of Florida Athletic Association didn’t make any such statement, and the Gators aren’t giving up on their Nov. 25 game at the Swamp. The story is completely made up.
React365.com is a website that allows people to create "prank" stories, in which users write a few sentences and post a photo to trick people.
The stories have the same effect as any fake news article — they trick readers into thinking they are real. Out of context, anyone can be fooled, even with the minimal warning posted at the bottom of the page that reads, "This website is an entertainment website, news are created by users. These are humourous news, fantasy, fictional, that should not be seriously taken or as a source of information."
When we tried to contact Mediavibes via email, they only replied that they do not comment to the press.
Readers should be wary of any story from React365.com or similar sites. The posts appear to always carry the current date, and feature a share counter that reflects the current date. When we saw this story, the counter said the story was from Nov. 7 and had been shared more than 94,000 times, but there’s no way to tell if that’s accurate.
We contacted UF ourselves, just to make sure this Thanksgiving weekend tradition really was slated to continue as scheduled. "This is not true," athletic association spokesman Will Pantages confirmed.
Feel free to plan your turkey day recovery around the UF-FSU rivalry game, because this is another fumble from a fake news generator. Pants on Fire!
React365.com, "UF requests to cancel Rivalry game against FSU," accessed Nov. 7, 2017
Tampa Bay Times, "Jim McElwain out as Florida Gators head football coach," Oct. 29, 2017
Interview with Will Pantages, University of Florida Athletic Association spokesman, Nov. 7, 2017
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