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Dad explains why he trolled 12-year-old son with bad grades sign at NBA games

The dad who went viral for the hilarious yet ruthless sign he held up at a Cleveland Cavaliers-Charlotte Hornets game two weeks ago is a mystery no more.

The man from St. Louis, Missouri, who asked to be identified only as Tommy, earned the nickname “father of the year” from some fans on the internet after he trolled his 12-year-old son, Thomas, for getting bad grades on his latest report card.

“Thomas get your grades back up and next time you’ll be here. Love, Dad,” read the sign, complete with a tearful emoji and Cavs logo.

The powerful message sparked a range of reactions — some praised it as a “parenting win,” while a few critics who slammed the dad for embarrassing his son.

Tough love. 😬 [Credit: Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports]

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But the only thing that matters to the father: his son heard his message “loud and clear.”

Tommy told CBS News his 7th-grade son is like his sidekick. They go everywhere together, and NBA games are always a special treat. Two weeks ago, however, when he saw his son’s report card, he decided this time the boy had to stay home.

Thomas just transferred from a public school to a private school, so his parents expected his grades might suffer, but this was far worse than they imagined.

“This report card didn’t show me that there was a lack of understanding or intelligence,” Tommy told CBS News. “It was a lack of effort being put forth by my son. It’s not that he didn’t get it — he didn’t do his best.”

Before the game in Charlotte, Tommy decided to get a sign custom-made in hopes his son would see his message on the big screen. After his photo went viral, Tommy called his son to ask if he saw the message.

Thomas didn’t return his call.

So Tommy flew to Houston to attend the Houston Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder game, and this time he carried a new sign: “Thomas can you hear me now? STUDENT then ATHLETE son. In that order. Love, dad.”

Thomas made sure to pick up the phone after that.

“I’m going to do better,” he promised.

Tommy said it was never his intention to humiliate his son. 

“We live in a society where people are having to hide their troubles and it’s causing all types of problems... I’m trying to teach my son and all of my kids that it’s OK not to be OK,” Tommy explained. “It’s normal to have problems.”

As soon as Thomas gets his grades back up, Tommy promised NBA fans can expect to see them both holding another sign that will read, “Look who got their grades together.”