May 5, 2016

If you haven’t seen the video, you are in a growing minority. Take a moment and join the nearly 3.3 million people who have watched “#MoreThanMean” on YouTube.

More than a week has passed since this highly important video was posted, and the participants still are overwhelmed by the fallout.

“We didn’t think it would explode the way it did,” said Julie DiCaro, a sports reporter for WSCR, a sports talk station in Chicago.

DiCaro and Sarah Spain, an ESPN Radio host and columnist for espnW, are featured in a video that explicitly illustrates the abuse women sports reporters receive on social media. The film, produced by Just Not Sports, shows men struggling to read tweets that are beyond vile directly to DiCaro and Spain; actual tweets each has received. The images and words are powerful.

Immediately, DiCaro and Spain were besieged by requests for interviews. The story was featured on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” and on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, among numerous other outlets.

DiCaro and Spain have thoroughly discussed the reasons for doing the video, and many women sports reporters, including Juliet Macur of The New York Times, have weighed in with their experiences.

Why did the video strike such a chord? DiCaro and Spain said they assumed most people knew of the abuse directed at women sports reporters on social media. They and others certainly have talked and written about it at length.

“It had a lot to do with the emotion these guys showed in the video,” DiCaro said. “It says something about their humanity in seeing their reaction.”

Spain’s response, though, is telling.

“Part of the issue, which is just as unfortunate, is just having women talk about the abuse, for whatever reason, is not as powerful as seeing the reaction of the men in the video,” Spain said. “There is a larger discussion about whether women are believed by society. When we talk about it, it gets dismissed as a women just being upset or getting carried away. As much as it stinks that the power needs to come from a man’s reaction, it is what makes the video so striking.”

Whatever the reasons, the message seems to have registered at several levels. DiCaro said she actually has heard from men who apologized to her for inappropriate social media comments.

“They said, ‘I was bored. I didn’t really think about what I was writing. It was a joke,’” DiCaro said. “Well, it’s not joking to us.”

DiCaro also received a letter from a ninth-grade teacher who plans to use the video as a lesson about language and the use of social media.

“That’s where we really need to start, in the schools,” DiCaro said. “Everyone knows that social media is a big part of a kid’s life. Parents need to know what’s going on there. The conversation about having humanity [on social media] needs to start when they are young.”

Meanwhile, Spain said she received a call from an important person in her life: ESPN President John Skipper. He told her the network would like to be at the forefront at eliminating the abuse directed at women sports reporters.

“Can we actually do something about it?” Spain said. “We’re going to try to play it forward in a way to make things better.”

Spain and DiCaro realize the video isn’t going to completely eliminate all the idiots in the wider social media universe. Spain said “the worst of the worst won’t be affected.”

However, she hopes the video will make some people who are more “nonchalant” think twice about the comments they direct at women sports reporters.

“Maybe their language and vitriol will come down a little bit,” Spain said. “What people need to realize is that what you say online still are real words. Even though you’re online, you’re still talking to a human being.”

The goal, DiCaro said, is to ensure the next generation of women sports reporters don’t receive the same abuse on social media that they did.

“Sarah and I are older now. We have enough confidence that we can deal with it,” DiCaro said. “Frankly, if this would have happened when I was 22, it would have destroyed me. There’s so many young girls coming into the industry. We want to make it a better place for them.”

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Sherman wrote for the Chicago Tribune for 27 years covering the 1985 Bears Super Bowl season, the White Sox, college football, golf and sports media.…
Ed Sherman

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