The past year we have seen incredible strides by women in men’s professional sports. We witnessed the first female referee in the NFL, the first female NBA and NFL coach, and the first D-League female head coach. I always knew that entering the male sports industry was difficult for women, but I never thought people would scrutinize these women for following their passion. I figured that our society had overcame sports menenism, and that we would accept this positive change. But when I read an article on Sports Illustrated called Threats. Vitriol. Hate. Ugly truth about women in sports and social media, I began to realize the severity of some people’s actions. The aforementioned article features Julie DiCaro, the 670 The Score Anchor, as she talks about her struggles in the male dominant sports industry. One sentence stuck out to me in particular, and I apologize in advance for the graphic language. DiCaro says:
The first time I was ever called a “c**t,” at least to my “face,” was on a sports blog in 2006. The comment that evoked the slur had nothing to do with the guy who aimed it at me. I had disagreed—politely—with something he had said about the Cubs’ starting lineup, and that prompted a reply along the lines of “Why would you bat Todd Walker second, you filthy c**t?”
I understand that people are incredibly passionate about sports, but the sort of language seen above is incredibly offensive and unwarranted no matter the situation. A man would rarely use that sort of language to a women’s face in person, but social media gives him the ability to hide behind his monitor as he heckles anyone that voices their opinion. You might be saying to yourself, this is just one example, the guy just lost control of his anger . If this was an isolated incident, I would not be overly concerned, but this is not the only incident for Ms. DiCaro. Nine years after her first unsettling encounter, in the midst of the Patrick Kane rape investigation, she found herself berated through Twitter again. The following pictures are 3 tweets sent to Julie in response to a sports-related statement said on air.
At this point, Julie became concerned with her safety and no longer felt safe going to her office. I am fairly certain that most people would not walk up to Julie DiCaro and read any of those tweets to her face. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms provide a shield that enables bullies to work from the safety of their homes. So why do people think that distance and anonymity give them the right to treat people with disrespect? I think it is a direct result of a lack of social media etiquette. As kids grow up, parents teach them how to interact with peers on a personal basis, but social media is a new and unique form of communication. As social media becomes an increasingly prevalent form of communication for all age groups, people need to learn the proper ways to use these platforms. You would not walk up to a random strange and tell them they deserve to be beaten to death, so why is it okay on Twitter? Because Twitter and other social media is such an effective communication tool, people should understand the proper uses in order to have civilized and respectful engagements. While we will most likely see college and professional sports continue to change, social media will play an integral role as one main tool for voicing opinions. I hope figures such as Becky Hammon or Sarah Thomas are given the respect and acknowledgement they deserve, especially through social media.