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The Florida Panthers Accidentally Created a #QAnon Conspiracy Meme

Depending on whom you ask, the upcoming Florida Panthers season is about to be exciting for two wildly different reasons. If you have a normal brain and enjoy hockey, great — the Panthers just hired a new coach, Joel Quenneville, who has a long track record of success and piloted the Chicago Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup wins.

If you're a paranoid shut-in who follows the absolutely nuts QAnon conspiracy theory, then you're also in luck. Earlier this month, the Panthers made a bunch of posters and a literal billboard emblazoned with the sentence "Q IS HERE" — a reference to Quenneville — and some of the absolutely stupidest people on Earth now believe it's a reference to QAnon.

Because everything on the internet in 2019 is broken and depraved, a few prominent QAnon-following Twitter accounts posted photos of the billboard. The images are now cycling through the websites 8chan and Voat, two online cesspools of hate and racism:

For the uninitiated, QAnon is a batshit-crazy, pro-Trump conspiracy theorizing that prominent Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, run an international child-rape coven, and that (accused sex predator) Donald Trump is working behind the scenes to arrest every member of the child-molesting Deep State. Like most bad things on the internet, the theory began on the website 4chan. A user named "Q Clearance Patriot" started claiming in 2017 he or she had inside access to the president, and people quickly began to believe Q was posting insider intelligence about President Trump.

Some QAnon fans literally believe Obama, Clinton, and others have secretly already been arrested and now walk the earth wearing ankle monitors as they await their international sex-crime charges. Other QAnon followers surmised George H.W. Bush's funeral was actually a fake setup to bring every major U.S. leader into a room so Trump could arrest them all. That obviously did not happen.

But QAnon is bleeding into all sorts of real-life events, and larger numbers of people keep turning up at Trump rallies wearing Q shirts or holding Q signs. More troublingly, a Broward Sheriff's Office SWAT officer, Matt Patten, wore a QAnon patch last November when BSO greeted Vice President Mike Pence at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Quenneville, meanwhile, has gone by "Coach Q" for decades. Hockey analysts are quite optimistic about his new gig in Broward County — Quenneville's teams perennially make the playoffs. The Athletic, a sports-journalism web startup, wrote last week that Quenneville's hiring gave the Panthers "instant credibility."

Reached by phone, a spokesperson for the Florida Panthers declined to comment.

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