Regardless of what anyone thinks of Barstool Sports, one thing in this whole “Towelgate” controversy is clear: any woman who dares criticize or even question the bro culture media empire opens themselves up to horrendous online torture.
The floodgates opened this week as throngs of “Stoolies” — loyal Barstool Sports fans — ruthlessly targeted a female Herald reporter who asked the Bruins why the team partnered with the media outlet, given Barstool’s past track record of controversy. USA Today sports writer Hemal Jhaveri also weighed in on the towel tussle and was also subjected to vicious cyber-assaults and peppered with expletives from Stoolies defending the brand and its loudmouth leader David “El Pres” Portnoy.
Herald hockey writer Marisa Ingemi got no answers from the team when she asked why 17,000 Bruins fans at Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final were handed free rally towels emblazoned with the Barstool logo. The team remained tight-lipped Thursday. Bruins spokesman Matt Chmura didn’t return my calls or an email, Portnoy also hasn’t responded to emails but has tweeted extensively about it, including saying the controversy has “reinvigorated” him to “crush and eviscerate” his enemies.
Ingemi, a respected Bruins beat writer, was doing her job when she was inundated with a torrent of disgraceful verbal abuse and misogynistic, frat boy drivel, mocking her appearance. To a lesser degree, I too have received several inappropriate and misogynistic messages. I’ve been told by various males — I refuse to even call them men — to “take a seat” and make “my dinner,” while one gem commented that feminists “are mostly miserable.”
Male reporters deal with their share of nasty comments, for sure. But when women dare venture into sports coverage and question something that rubs male fans the wrong way, the criticism often becomes nasty verbal abuse that dismisses women. And it’s done in a demeaning, belittling way that’s meant to put women in their place.
In 2008, when the Patriots played the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, I wrote a light feature that compared and contrasted the two cities and poked fun at New York fans. What I got in return were some of the most horrible messages imaginable, including references to sexual violence.
I can deal with civil criticism and welcome respectable debate, but no one should be subjected to these keyboard cowards who think it’s OK to swear, make veiled threats or tell me my place is in the kitchen. Ingemi didn’t deserve it and neither do any of the many other hard-working female reporters covering sports.
While Barstool certainly can’t control their followers, they are responsible for their long history of sexist controversies. Which is why the Bruins should answer the question.
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