By Kamryn Hailey
“Nothing, and I really mean nothing, gives me more pleasure on here than being a hater.”
This is just one of over 8,600 tweets from Twitter user @young_pierre24, aka Neil Pierre-Louis.
To his more than 3,800 followers, he always seems to find himself at the center of attention on social media whenever any UNC team is playing. Whether he’s posting fake emails or ruffling the feathers of opposing teams’ fans, it’s hard to imagine him pulling for any other school than the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Tar Heel born
Pierre-Louis is the epitome of a born, bred and dead Tar Heel. Both his parents graduated from UNC-CH, which made the Durham native a Carolina basketball fan since childhood. Despite his familiarity with the school, he once had no desire to follow in his parents’ footsteps.
When it was time for him to decide on a college, his interest in engineering narrowed his options down to Duke University and North Carolina State University. He got accepted into both schools; but, as time would tell, he would choose to keep the family tradition alive.
“I feel like I want to go to UNC,” he concluded four years ago. “I’m glad I made that decision.”
Although Tar Heel fandom was already in his blood, he brought new meaning to being a Carolina sports fan when he enrolled in 2019. Only a few weeks into his first semester, his peers started to see that his school spirit stood out from the rest.
Greear Webb, a senior from Raleigh who met Pierre-Louis during their freshman year, said Pierre-Louis was always in the stands and encouraging people to support the teams.
“I got the vibe that he was a die-hard Carolina fan,” Webb said. “He’s definitely someone I wouldn’t mess with on game day.”
Taking to Twitter
In time, messing with Pierre-Louis on game days would become the norm. Regardless of the sport being played, he would find himself on social media — Twitter specifically — talking about everything as it happened throughout the game. As expected, his tweets began to gain attention.
Sage Staley, a political science major from Salisbury, said she enjoys the humor that Pierre-Louis brings to often-stressful game days.
“Neil’s humor provides such a comic relief,” she said. “He has always been a sociable person on and off Twitter.”
Although the positivity he brings to game days is well received from the UNC community, fans of opposing teams aren’t always as receptive to his tweets. While the back and forth between fans from different schools can typically be well-disposed, there are always a few bad apples.
“A guy said he’d rather join ISIS than join us,” Pierre-Louis said in reference to online rivals. “They’ll say anything.”
These fans won’t just say anything — they’ll do anything as well. He once attended a game in Carter-Finley Stadium, where the Tar Heels took the lead in a heated matchup with N.C. State University. Unable to hide his excitement for his team, his friend warned him that they would have to leave the student section if he wanted to avoid getting beaten up.
He recalled a time where an NCSU fan resorted to physical violence. While at a tailgate in Raleigh, Pierre-Louis accidentally bumped into a Wolfpack fan, which resulted in him getting punched in the face.
Even when fans seem to take things too far, he always knows when it’s time to take a step back.
Racism rears its head
“There’s a couple times where a State fan or even a Duke fan or just someone in general was being racist. But, at that point, I just block and move on. I never thought it would get to this point, but you just have to not take what anyone says at face value,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s literally just a game. It’s not that deep.”
Even with it being “just a game,” Webb thinks there’s a deeper meaning as to why Pierre-Louis often gets so much backlash on social media.
“It points to the agency that Black people have in 2023. We should be able to speak our minds as Black people, especially about sports where we dominate, and have historically,” he said.
Even with Black athletes dominating in their respective sports, Statista reported that in 2021, African American males only made up 16.5% of student athletes. For these young men, it’s disheartening that playing sports at the collegiate level means dealing with racism. It’s unnerving that even the fans have to deal with such discrimination on social media as well.
Webb said when it comes to sports, things get complex. He explained that Black athletes in the sporting realm were initially put there for entertainment. Unfortunately, a lot of North Carolinians get upset when Black fans have an opinion about Black athletes on the court or field.
“There are often racial undertones that I see on Twitter from other fans and just from people on Twitter that are trying to cause a hard time for Neil,” Webb said. “I think that’s prevalent and relevant and something we should keep an eye on and continue to discuss. Because in North Carolina, with its rich racial history and its rich sports history, those two are bound to overlap.”
The pros and cons of the platform
Even with the inevitable negativity, the good always outweighs the bad. A few weeks ago, Pierre-Louis was at Goodfellows, a bar on East Franklin Street, when a fan from Twitter bought him a drink. He is appreciative of the relationships social media has brought him and the opportunities that come along with his platform.
“Those conversations we have would not exist in any other medium, so that’s probably the best part,” he said. “It’s definitely added a lot to my experience at Carolina.”
Edited by Fleet Wilson and Christian Ciocoiu