University sport can stir up strong emotions – particularly in the US, where college football (of the American variety) is not only followed passionately by students and staff at an institutional level but also afforded high-profile coverage on national television.
Ahead of a recent game between the University of Arizona Wildcats and the Washington State University Cougars, Megan Coghlan, sports editor of The Daily Wildcat student newspaper, was asked to write an article for The Post Game – a Yahoo! Sports “digital sports magazine” that often asks football supporters to write provocative blog posts designed to stimulate debate among fans.
“I have yet to meet a legitimate Cougar fan,” Coghlan writes. “I may not live in Washington or spend much time there, but the [University of] Washington Husky fan base is serious business. Sorry to bring up a touchy subject, it can’t be fun living in the shadow of your ‘rival’.”
The taunting blog urges Washington fans visiting Arizona for the game to “take a look at our brand new football facility”, which is apparently “better than anything you’ll ever have”, before pronouncing the Cougars “prone to silly fumbles and mistakes” and likely to make more “flubs” when intimidated by the vocal Arizona crowd.
“If you’re traveling out to Tucson to root on your Cougars, start your search now for places to drink your sorrows away,” Coghlan’s trash-talk-laden post concludes.
According to the News 4 Tucson website, after the blog was published, Ms Coghlan was targeted with “online hate messages and sexist attacks”, and received “thousands of expletive emails, Facebook messages, and tweets”.
“Many of the messages were from the WSU community”, the report says, adding that a hashtag – #MeganCoghlanSucks – was created on Twitter after the Cougars were the surprise -17 winners of the game. “Coghlan said she received threats and people telling her to kill herself,” the news site says.
After the torrent of online abuse, Ms Coghlan opted to use the pages of The Daily Wildcat to respond in an editorial.
“The Internet is a nasty place. For one weekend, I was the least popular person on Twitter, according to Washington State University fans,” she writes. “By Saturday, my Twitter, email, Facebook and Instagram exploded with comments from Washington State fans. I was called a slut, whore, cunt, bitch and many derogatory female-based terms.”
She continues: “I expected negative responses, sure. When you talk trash, you expect to get trash back. But the overflow of sexism and cruelty that flooded my inbox and social media accounts was far out of proportion for a trash-talk column before a football game.”
Ms Coghlan reveals that she locked her Twitter account, only to see the derogatory comments posted to her newspaper’s website “even though my article was not written for the Daily Wildcat”.
“Trash-talk is a part of sports,” she concludes. “Harassment, sexism and threats should not be.”
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