"One of the players should beat you to death with their hockey stick."
That's an actual online comment directed at sports journalist Julie DiCaro. She, along with Sarah Spain of ESPN, are featured in a new video conceived by Just Not Sports, in which a handful of male sports fans read aloud comments and tweets directed at the two women.
The men, who did not write the comments, were recruited specifically for the project–as were DiCaro and Spain, along with other female journalists who declined to participate.
"I think they reached out to many women in sports," DiCaro told host Phil Ponce. "Unfortunately, I think a lot of the women were concerned about the backlash they would get for being part of this."
The men's on-camera readings marked the first time they had seen the comments, which were pulled from the journalists' Twitter timelines and other social media platforms.
While some of the remarks early in the video solicit a chuckle from their intended recipients, the scene quickly turns ugly as the messages become increasingly vulgar and violent.
As the video plays on, the men become visibly shaken by the hostility expressed in the comments. "I'm sorry," several say after reading painful notes while seated in front of DiCaro and Spain. One gets an off-camera prompt to continue reading after he takes a lengthy pause. Another asks if he has to read them all.
"I'm having trouble looking at you when I'm saying these things," one reader tells Spain.
In its story about the video, Just Not Sports writes:
In reading the statements out loud to women journalists, guys are forced to experience, sometimes for the first time, the shocking online harassment happening to women in sports day in, day out. It serves as proof most sports fans would NEVER say these things to another person – so we shouldn’t type this garbage, either.
"I think most of us get harassment every single day," DiCaro said. "[Women who work in sports] sort of wade through that every day. The really awful stuff–the death threats, the rape threats–that tends to come when we talk about hot-button issues: a sexual assault in sports, domestic violence, racial issues, those kinds of things. That's when you tend to get the really violent threats. But it's a near-constant barrage, pretty much every day."
At the end of the project, DiCaro said the men who participated in the video were very compassionate. Their shock at what the women endure had a way of renewing her "faith in humanity."
"Most people out there are good," DiCaro said. "This loud minority that a lot of us see online doesn't representative most guys who are sports fans, or who are out there on social media."
She attributes her ability to deal with the constant harassment to her support system.
"I've got a wonderful boss who is extremely supportive. I've got a wonderful husband who listens to me cry and scream and rant when I have those days," DiCaro said.
She said she also has support from other women who work in the industry. "We pick each other up when we're having really bad days, and get each other through," she said.
Ultimately, DiCaro is not interested in leaving the industry. It's a dream she's had since she was young.
"Most of the women I know who work in sports worked extremely hard to get here. We're not going anywhere. We love our jobs and we love sports. We just want to not have to deal with this added constant barrage of negativity every single day."
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