Social media can be cruel. It gives unstable and downright bigoted people a platform to express miserable opinions to the world.
Tennis star Sloane Stephens said she received more than 2,000 abusive messages and comments on her Instagram Story following her third-round loss to Angelique Kerber (7-5, 2-6, 3-6) at the U.S. Open on Friday night at Louis Armstrong Stadium in New York.
from Sloane’s Instagram story… pic.twitter.com/99keqUIG8C
— Luca (@SluggishLuca) September 4, 2021
Sloane apparently is no stranger to this kind of backlash, something she said is “so exhausting and never-ending.”
“I am human…,” she wrote. “After last night’s match, I got [more than 2,000] messages of abuse/anger from people upset by yesterday’s result. It’s so hard to read messages like these, but I’ll post a few so you guys can see what it’s like after a loss.”
The messages shared are a barrage of racial slurs, threats, physical, sexual abuse and more.
She continued: “This isn’t talked about enough, but it really freaking sucks. I’m happy to have people in my corner who support me. I’m choosing positive vibes over negative ones. I choose to show you guys happiness on here, but it’s not always smiles and roses.”
American tennis player Sloane Stephens received a torrent of angry messages on social media, including racist and sexist abuse, following her third-round loss to Angelique Kerber at the U.S. Open https://t.co/caj58IRnOh pic.twitter.com/lm1YmeAlAA
— Reuters (@Reuters) September 5, 2021
Sadly, Nothing New Here
Black athletes — and athletes in general—have been the victims of disgusting fan behavior even before the racial and gender integration of sports.
Some of them have been driven to alcoholism, depression, and in the worst cases, even suicide. The N-word is still rife in professional soccer and sports that have not fully embraced the presence of Black people as dominating forces.
It still happens in hockey. And baseball. And golf. Lacrosse. NASCAR.
All of these pro organizations have fans and in some cases coaches, front office executives, and owners that refuse to accept the fact that pro athletics are a platform for the most skilled and not a privilege for the non-melanated.
Stephens is certainly not the first Black athlete to receive hate mail, racist threats, and the like. Social media has extended the reach for these kinds of people and we have legitimized them to an extent, by reposting and sharing their hate and ignorance.
Disappointing loss yesterday, but I’m heading in the right direction. Honestly, so much to be proud of! Been fighting battles all year and haven’t backed down yet. Never stop fighting!
You win or you learn, but you never lose ❤️ pic.twitter.com/5R1tOSpsDA
— sloanestephens (@SloaneStephens) September 4, 2021
Some will say it’s good for Stephens to expose these vile humans. Put them on blast and let the social media moshpit eat them up. Others insist that she shouldn’t give their divisive attacks any credence.
Social Media Moshpit
The culture of pro sports has always been very emotion-driven. The relationship between reporter and player is sometimes very contentious.
The difference, however, between now and 30 years ago is the amplification of every voice over social media platforms. As far as the athlete/fan/media dynamic is concerned, this increase in voices and accessibility to athletes has pulled back that final layer of protection that athletes once enjoyed.
As maligned as reporters are, athletes were protected to a certain extent by the reporters who covered the teams. Athletes received hate mail from fans, but they didn’t have to open it. They certainly weren’t as directly accessible to every Tom, Dick & Harry from Oneonta to the Oklahoma plains.
We have opened up the pulpit of public opinion to every racist, misogynist, bigot and all-out hater in the world.
There’s no way to police people being a*%holes. There’s no way to immediately bridge the racial, political, cultural, and historical differences that people may have. Especially on a platform that is often used to express differences, voice frustration, and strike with no retaliation.
Opinions Are Just That: Love Yourself!
What Stephens experienced is hideous. Black women in particular are increasingly becoming the target of social media attacks. It’s even worse for those women who are shining in positions of leadership, breaking barriers, inspiring other women, and getting paid handsomely for their talents.
It happened to music star Lizzo a few weeks ago. She was mercifully harassed about her weight and her personal lifestyle choices.
Lizzo’s response to the abuse: “Sometimes I feel like the world just don’t love me back. It’s like it doesn’t matter how much positive energy you put into the world, you’re still gonna have people who have something mean to say about you.”
Just reminding myself that I’m the finest bitch in the universe and can’t nobody convince me otherwise not even myself pic.twitter.com/9dQbvKyfk5
— FOLLOW @YITTY (@lizzo) August 28, 2021
For sure and it won’t change any time soon. So definitely love yourself even when it seems like nobody else does.
The best thing for Sloan Stephens to do is not read the comments. Or have someone monitor them and review them first.
There’s no benefit to Sloane immersing herself in that garbage. It’s often a trap to have you thinking something is wrong when you’re actually winning the game of life by a landslide.