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Lebron James and other athletes impersonated by verified Twitter accounts

Some Twitter users are already abusing the platform’s new for-purchase verification badges by impersonating high-profile athletes, including NBA star Lebron James.

The spoof accounts, which popped up on Wednesday afternoon, come after Twitter officially began rolling out the $7.99 version of its Twitter Blue subscription service, which allows users to pay for a blue checkmark indicating they have been verified. Many blue checks already belong to celebrities, businesses and journalists.

Those who appear to have been parodied as of Wednesday afternoon include: James, Major League Baseball pitcher Aroldis Chapman, and National Hockey League center Connor McDavid.  The fake accounts for all three have since been suspended.

NBC News has reached out to representatives for these athletes. A spokesperson for Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A bogus tweet from the verified account impersonating James came from the handle “@KINGJamez.” It erroneously claimed that the Lakers player had requested a trade. 

The tweet from the verified account pretending to be McDavid falsely claimed the player was signing with the New York Islanders.

The tweet from the handle “@AroIdisChapman,” which differs from the MLB player’s actual handle “@AChapman_105,” claimed he had signed a three-year contract with the New York Yankees.

The fake Chapman account wrote a follow-up tweet, seemingly clarifying it’s a joke. The account, prior to being suspended, listed itself as a “parody” account in the bio.

Musk, who officially acquired Twitter in late October, has faced intense scrutiny for his decision to make verification, a tool used to ensure the person posting is who they say they are, a subscription-based product. Some have raised concerns about how this could affect the spread of misinformation on the platform. 

In recent days, several previously verified users who impersonated Musk were banned from the platform. Comedian Kathy Griffin, YouTube personality Ethan Klein and “Mad Men” actor Rich Sommer were each suspended over the weekend after they changed their display names and profile pictures to match Musk’s.

Prior to Musk’s Twitter acquisition, the platform had rules against impersonation and rules about how parody accounts could be used on the site. Accounts had to clearly label that they were a parody of the person or platform they were impersonating. 

However, on Sunday, Musk tweeted that “going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.” 

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