The World of Male Professional Sports Through the Eye of Women

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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.

Julie Julie2 Julie3At 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.

8 comments

  1. Thanks for this post,

    I totally agree with the point you are trying to make. Social Media platforms have definately allowed individuals to say things they were always afraid of saying to people’s faces in person. Because we feel physically distant from people on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and because we know for a fact that we will remain unknown to many people on such platforms we find ourselves being offensive and harsh on others. But is this a women vs men matter? Or is it just a downside to social media use? These are the questions I thought about when reading your post. I definitely agree with you that the way Julie was attacked was inappropriate and shameful. I related this incident to a recent news in the English Premier League regarding Chelsea’s Doctor, Eva Carneiro. Many people attacked and criticized Eva on Facebook and Twitter over the past few weeks, as she ran to treat Even Hazard on the field during a soccer game. All the world was talking about her and about coach Jose Mourinho, who received insulting attacks as well. Social Media is used as a mean for self expression. Social media is disrupting the sports industry widely. But because of social media, fans feel more connected to players and teams more than ever before. So do benefits outweigh the costs? I really loved the example you gave, and the images attached. This was a very interesting read.

  2. ashleighpopera · ·

    I completely agree with your argument here. I love how you ask “So why do people think that distance and anonymity give them the right to treat people with disrespect?” Your emphasis on how these people would not say these things to this woman in person really does show the potential misuse of the “shield” and privacy social media communication creates. I think this issue is broader than sexism, and really applies to any instance of cyberbullying on social media.

    At its core, social media is a communicative tool. It can be used to spark conversation and share ideas and different viewpoints. Hateful comments, like the examples of Tweets you used, not only show disrespect, but also add absolutely nothing to the conversation. Sports often generate large debates on social media because of the extreme passion of fans, but there is a VERY large difference between disagreement and disrespect.

    If anything, the comments made by these men come off as unwarranted, unnecessary, and most of all uneducated. Social media profiles should be a reflection of a user’s real self, and personally I think it is just embarrassing to reflect your character in such a manner.

  3. This is absolutely awful to see. If women are being singled out in professional sports on social media and nothing is being done to stop it, we have a serious problem. First, I hate people that talk behind other peoples’ backs, if I have something to say about someone, whether it is nice or not, I will tell them to their face. Although this is not exactly gossiping, it is the same idea. These people think they are saved by posting this type of vulgar material from their computer screens. Second, the language used is horrendous! Children and young adults have the ability to see these types of posts, as most youth begin using social media at a very early age. These occurrences are clear indications that the type of conversation created by social media can lead to very bad results; people don’t use this language in daily conversation, yet it is allowed on social media!

  4. Can’t agree enough with what is said here. It’s truly despicable to see what human beings become whenever they feel the rules of society no longer apply to them, like online communication. This hateful kind of rhetoric is something I feel that education systems need to address, and need to address it now. I think that a well-organized class in Social Media at the high school level is something that would really benefit younger students, as opposed to just banning kids from interacting online throughout the entire school day. Maybe this way we can squash some of these tendencies before they start.

  5. rebeccajin06 · ·

    Definitely agree with the points made in this post. The sports industry, as you mentioned, is an especially difficult industry for women to break into and be respected in and unfortunately that leads to many events like the one Julie DiCaro experienced. Your post immediately made me think of Erin Andrews, a prominent female sports reporter, who has been publicly attacked many times on things ranging from her outfit choices to her on-air sports opinions. While plenty of sports casters will be bashed for their opinions on sports (shout out to Scotty Van Pelt), it truly is frustrating to see how hateful comments become personal when they are directed towards women. Females often become subject to comments about their weight, appearance, attractiveness, etc. and this does not happen nearly as much to men. The sports industry is definitely a difficult place for women to be but hopefully with the integration of more women in the industry and more respectful social media practices, it will become a more hospitable environment.

  6. Really nice post. Might be worth asking our legal expert. I do know that you can’t really threaten to kill someone in real life (or, I don’t think you can), but I’m not sure if that extends to the social media space. Actually lots of research says that people act in much more divisive ways if they feel they are anonymous.

  7. I can’t believe there’s people out there that think it is ok to insult someone as harshly as these guys did on social media. It is so true that we need to start teaching not only children, but also adults that social media is a way of communicating and should have its rules of etiquette just as any other means of communication.

  8. It’s a shame to see trolls like these degenerates making a reporter feel unsafe. It shouldn’t be acceptable to threaten anyone’s life, regardless of platform. @geraldckane mentioned that it’s illegal to threaten someone in “real life” but social media is simply a tool to interact with the world at learge. Just because someone is communication through the Internet doesn’t make that person any less real. This article gets into some of the more specific details of whether or not this vitriol is protected under the first amendment: http://cbsn.ws/1GyTW4t

    The most important part with regards to your post is as follows: “For more than four decades, the Supreme Court has said that ‘true threats’ to harm another person are not protected speech under the First Amendment. But the court has been careful to distinguish threats from protected speech such as ‘political hyperbole’ or ‘unpleasantly sharp attacks.'” As you said, these hateful people will likely not act upon their threats nor do they truly want them to happen, but these types of people make it difficult to distinguish between legitimate threats and blind hate-mongering.

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