William “Refrigerator” Perry was reported dead on Twitter Wednesday, prompting the retired defensive lineman to clear up rumors of his health on Twitter.
I heard about the rumors that I passed away online. #SMH. Just wanted to let everyone that they are not true and Im doing fine. Thanks guys!
— William Perry (@FridgePerry72) August 14, 2013
But people are having a hard time parsing this death hoax because it’s not a death hoax in the way we’ve come to expect (and shame) them.
Rumors of Refrigerator Perry’s death started going around Twitter early Wednesday, but it didn’t really start picking up steam until the Twitter account @ClemsonTigerNet announced it. They quickly took the post down, but they have thousands of followers and are a pretty influential handle for all-things Clemson, so a lot of people took the report as legitimate.
They later clarified with a mea culpa on their website, explaining “There were several reports on Twitter this morning of William Perry’s passing, but it appears it was [the death of] another William Perry that caused the confusion.”
See, there are two kinds of death hoaxes to watch out for. The first, we’ve covered extensively here. That’s when a celebrity is killed off with a false report on purpose by online famewhores seeking pageviews without really earning them by publishing good content.
The other kind of death hoax is more accidental, and caused by the “citizen journalists” of social media and the blogosphere. They see in the paper that someone famous died and think “hey, there’s only one William Perry I know of, and thus, only one William Perry in existence” and start the rumor mill by happy, earnest accident.
We’re not as hard on the latter, and usually give the benefit of the doubt in those cases.
Anyway, the real lesson here is that Refrigerator Perry is alive, enjoying retirement, and still loves hats.