According to research done by Pew Research Center, “40% of internet users have personally experienced online harassment from the mild to the severe; 73% have witnessed it occur to others.” That’s a pretty staggering number as there are an enormous amount of internet users. Close to half of the internet being harassed bothers me because social media should be a site where people can update their statuses and express their feelings without issues.
Athletes serve as an inspiration and motivation to people through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and experience fame and glory after solid performances. What happens to athletes when they make one big mistake in a game that means so much to beloved fans? Well, turn to this past weekend’s big rivalry game between #12 Michigan and #7 Michigan State. Michigan punter Blake O’Neil dropped a potential game-sealing punt that led to a Michigan State scoop and score to cap a jaw-dropping win for the Spartans. As a result, O’Neil received plenty of harsh remarks and death threats like these:
This article says that 17% of the tweets that O’Neil received were posted in a negative and harsh manner similar to the ones above. Also included was first-hand account from ex-Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman who missed two field goals vs Nevada back in 2010 in which they lost 34-31. “I went through hell for at least a couple years,” Brotzman said. He added that there should be consequences and law enforcement involved with the people. Towards the end of the article, the author adds other examples of athletes receiving nasty remarks including Texas kicker Nick Rose and Clemson center Ryan Norton from this year, and from a couple years ago when police intervened after ex-Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez committed five turnovers in a game.
It is hard to imagine that these cruel-minded people will go away, so in my opinion, the best way to fight these situations to show some love to the players. Endless support from fans and teammates can go a long way for that athlete’s confidence. More from article in the previous paragraph says the other 83% of the tweets towards the Michigan punter were deemed positive. Also, it includes information on how college teams’ staffs and professional players can support their players. Founder of Fieldhouse Media, Kevin DeShazo, has informed colleges to go to the authorities in certain situations and most importantly to not let the affected athlete go through his/her situation alone. Additionally, college and pro teams have consulted social media firms to educate athletes on how to handle cyberbullying and internet hate talk.
If team staffs and teammates can continue to support and sympathize with the athlete who was affected and if fans can keep pumping positive thoughts into the timelines of the athlete’s profile, the harassment can be numbed.
What do you think is the best way athletes can avoid harsh criticism?