Attempted LeBron chalk toss prank prompts evacuation of UCF building

Don’t run into a crowded classroom, do this and yell something. Just don’t.
Don’t run into a crowded classroom, do this and yell something. Just don’t.

As a millennial — what? it is true, apparently! — I am very familiar with pranks, and how much they matter. I understand that virality is the most important thing there is, and that if the pursuit of a killer prank that’ll rack up millions of favs/likes/views/posts/reposts/tweets/RTs/shares/reshares/thinkpieces/rethinkpieces winds up ruffling a few feathers, well, that’s just the cost of doing Big Internet Business. The ends justify the memes, always.

I mean, I get that — again: millennial — but evidently, the University of Central Florida Police Department doesn’t. They’re more concerned with boring, decidedly not wavy things like “safety,” “security,” and “ensuring that students, professors and staff aren’t unwittingly exposed to potentially dangerous materials.” I know: lame, right? It’s like they’ve never even seen Reddit’s Rising tab.

Anyway, here’s what happened at UCF on Wednesday:




“We had an individual throw powder in one of the classrooms,” said UCF Police Department Chief Richard Beary. “We think it was going to be some type of stunt, like the LeBron James stunt.”

Beary’s talking about the way the former Miami Heat and current Cleveland Cavaliers superstar used to toss chalk up into the air before tipoff of games:

A student told Orlando CBS affiliate WKMG-TV that the man in the James jersey yelled, “I’m taking my talents elsewhere. I’m going to Miami,” as he threw the powder.

Sure, that’s not exactly what LeBron said nearly eight years ago during “The Decision,” and James has mostly tabled the pre-game ritual for the past half-dozen years. But why let that get in the way of a killer prank?

“Unfortunately, with the current threat situation the way it is, our fire partners said we needed to treat it as a hazmat situation,” Beary said.

And so, they did. About 90 minutes after the initial report started raising eyebrows, the UCF police gave the all-clear, confirming that the powder used in the chalk-toss prank was not anthrax or something like it, but rather …


Sweet.

UCF police later said that they’d identified the two men involved in the incident: the guy wearing the LeBron jersey “who interrupted class and threw powder into the air,” and a second man with a pair of backpacks “who recorded the disturbance.” They “indicated their actions were a joke and that they didn’t mean to cause any harm,” which is nice.

“We are not amused, especially in light of heightened concerns about safety,” UCF police said in their statement, presumably in reference to the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., three hours south of UCF’s campus in Orlando. “It should go without saying that pranks and stunts that create fear and panic are unacceptable.”

The lesson: the next time you’re aiming to go viral, consider whether or not your actions might instead have the effect of forcing a building’s evacuation, locking down a portion of a university’s campus and inconveniencing scores of people. If the answer even approaches yes, maybe just chill out and take a few plays off, my friend. Or, in fact, all the plays off. Just exit the game, really. Retire, raise that LeBron jersey to the rafters of your dorm room, and get your prank fix by watching “American Vandal,” like the rest of us.

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Dan Devine is a writer and editor for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@oath.com or follow him on Twitter!

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