SUPERFAN BANNED: Tuscaloosa’s Hunter Johnson Kicked Off Twitter Over Mistaken Identity
EDITOR'S NOTE: As of August 1, Hunter Johnson is an account executive for Townsquare Media Tuscaloosa, the company that owns and operates The Tuscaloosa Thread. Also, if the headline didn't give it away, this story is Extremely Online -- if that's not your thing, we'll be back to normal, hyperlocal news coverage presently.
One of the best-known and perhaps most notorious superfans of the Alabama Crimson Tide was banned from Twitter, the platform on which he is best known, over a case of mistaken identity Wednesday.
If the subject matter of this story seems inconsequential, that's because at the end of the day it probably is, but Hunter Johnson was and is one of Tuscaloosa's most-followed internet personalities. When his account was deactivated, Johnson boasted 17,800 followers -- more, even, than Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.
Johnson built that readership with his easily identifiable passion for all Alabama sports, but also with an equally evident sincerity that can be rare in online spaces, especially after someone gains the kind of notoriety to which he has become accustomed. Rather than "staying in his lane" and sticking to hot takes about football, basketball, softball, golf and more, Johnson also used his platform to talk plainly about his politics, his beloved pet cats (Sarah Catterson and Cat Murphy), Tuscaloosa food culture and so much more.
"I think a lot of people viewed me as an everyman fan that was also well-connected," Johnson said. "But it's not just the sports stuff; once people start following me, they kind of get to know me and keep up with the cats. I feel like I'm very much myself and if I Tweet something, it's genuine, even with politics and stuff. I'm going to be me, and I think people appreciate the fact that there's no sterilization of the account. It's totally me being myself."
But if you weren't familiar with Johnson and his particular brand, you probably haven't read this far into the story, so enough about that. What happened? Why was he banned from Twitter? Was he too mean to one of his favorite targets for jokes, Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl?
Of all the things Johnson COULD be banned for, the answer to this mystery is much simpler than you'd expect.
The trouble started earlier this week when 23-year-old Hunter Johnson -- no relation -- was named the starting quarterback of the Northwestern Wildcats. The Clemson transfer has no social media presence, and a lot of people who failed to do their due diligence began congratulating Tuscaloosa's Hunter Johnson on winning the position.
Rather than correct every Twitter egg, verified reporter and even some of Northwestern University's own branded accounts, Johnson played along, accepting praise and taking cracks at Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney in the voice of the young quarterback. He even changed his Twitter bio to read "QB1 @NUFBFamily.”
Some folks, though, must not have been thrilled about the case of mistaken identity, because Wednesday afternoon, just a day after the other Hunter Johnson was named the starting quarterback, the Twitter titan of Tuscaloosa was locked out of his account.
"It has come to our attention that your Twitter account is in violation of the Twitter Rules, specifically the policy on impersonation," an email sent to Johnson read. "Impersonation is pretending to be another entity in order to deceive, and is strictly prohibited. This account has been suspended and will not be restored.”
Johnson said he's working to get the account restored and several people are interceding on his behalf to do the same, but there's a very real possibility @HunterLJohnson is gone forever.
"It probably isn't coming back," Johnson said. "I feel like there's no gray area with impersonation. If a normal human being who follows athletics looked at my account they would see this is definitely not impersonating the quarterback at Northwestern. But somebody in Silicon Valley who's looking at this -- I'm sure if there's a hint of impropriety, they're going to act on it."
Johnson is taking the ban in stride, though, laughing about the move and already moving on with a new account, @BurnerLJohnson, just in case the original isn't restored. In 24 hours, he's already back to 1,500 followers with more arriving every minute.