Sexist trolling of Ayesha Curry is a problem that goes beyond sports
Ayesha Curry has once again become a target of sexist trolling during the 2019 NBA Finals.
The celebrity chef, author and TV personality is the wife of Golden State Warriors player Steph Curry.
On Sunday, following Game 2, a Toronto Raptors fan made vulgar remarks about Ayesha Curry on live television.
During a live hit, CP24 reporter Kelly Linehan was interviewing fans after the Warriors beat the Raptors 109-104.
The man in black not only said: “F—k her right in the p—y,” but he also added the Toronto-born celebrity chef’s name into the mix.
Toronto Police later identified the man as 28-year-old Tristan Warkentin. He was charged with mischief of interfering with lawful operation of property.
Linehan apologized to viewers and later posted a message to followers on Twitter.
“I love covering the Raptors. I love the fans and I love the post-season feeling in the city. However, I really can’t stand when people hijack an interview to spew vile comments on live TV. Toronto is so much better than that,” Linehan wrote in a tweet.
Trolling culture in basketball
Fan-versus-fan, player-versus-player or fan-versus-player trolling is a common occurrence for many sports, including basketball. Rapper Drake has been dubbed one of Toronto’s biggest trolls in the 2019 NBA Finals. During Game 1, he wore Steph Curry’s father’s former Toronto Raptors jersey and, during the same night, called Warriors player Draymond Green “trash” after Toronto won.
Ayesha Curry even got into the fun when the rapper pulled a piece of lint off her husband’s hair and posted it on eBay (one of the bids went as high as $118,000, reports stated). She went on Drake’s Instagram page and added a post that read: “So which charity are we donating proceeds? I say (No Kid Hungry),” ET Canada reported.
WATCH: Sports writer speaks out against online harassment
All jokes aside, Drake and the Currys have quite the friendship — the Toronto rapper even has Steph Curry’s jersey number as a tattoo. But while we’ve seen all types of trolling during these playoffs from both sides, some of the trolls target Ayesha Curry (and other players’ wives) specifically.
In previous years as well as this one, fans have created fake wedding and family photos of Ayesha Curry with rival team players, including Toronto Raptor Kawhi Leonard.
Similar photos can be seen of Ayesha Curry and Houston Rockets player James Harden and Kyrie Irving, a player for the Boston Celtics. All these players have been seen as rivals of her husband.
In 2016, following altered family photos of Ayesha Curry and Irving, she called the images insulting on Twitter.
“It’s the inappropriate photoshopped pictures that are insulting to both me and the others families, husbands, fathers, wives in them,” she tweeted in 2016. “I could care less about ‘L’s’ keep sending them. At this point you guys are insulting both sides with the inappropriate photos.”
In 2016, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith compared Ayesha Curry to Savannah Brinson, wife of NBA superstar LeBron James. On a segment of First Take, Smith was making a comparison based on the way Ayesha Curry behaved during Game 6 between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers that year.
“She’s [Brinson] wonderful inside and out. She sits there, she doesn’t bring any attention to herself. She never tweets and goes out there and calls out the league and stuff like that. And nobody — nobody — is more scrutinized than her husband,” Smith said. Ayesha Curry had written a Twitter post about how the NBA was “rigged for money.”
Smith said Ayesha Curry’s actions were a reflection on her husband, Steph.
“What you do is a reflection on the organization he works for. You have to be mindful of that. You can’t get caught up in your own individual emotions and having this zest to speak out to the point where it compromises your husband,” he said.
She later went on Twitter to address the comments. In a tweet directed at Smith, she said: “Why are you putting two women against each other like that? You’re the one that’s out of pocket.”
That same year, she told Essence magazine she wondered why people were so hateful towards her in regards to memes and images of her and other players.
“It doesn’t affect my personal life but it just doesn’t make sense to me,” she said in the interview. “I have a feeling whoever is making them is mostly men trying to pin women against each other, and that’s something I don’t stand for, especially with us black women. I just wish we could support each other a little bit more. I want everybody to succeed.”
Calling out ‘easy targets’
Jessalynn Keller, an assistant professor at the Department of Communication, Media and Film at University of Calgary, told Global News that girlfriends or wives of athletes become easy targets due to “patriarchal ideas that continue to linger in society.”
“In this case, that women are the property of their husband,” she explained. “When sexist remarks are made at a woman to ‘get to’ her husband, the person making the remark is operating on the assumption that an insult to her is actually hurting her husband due to the understanding that he ‘owns’ her.
In a larger context, Keller added this also applies to the history of women being abused, assaulted and raped to seek “revenge” on men.
In Ayesha Curry’s case (and specifically with the comment made by the Raptors fan), Keller said this type of trolling has become normalized.
“(It) has become part of a larger trolling culture where sexism, racism, homophobia and other types of discriminatory speech have been increasingly acceptable — and even mainstream in some instances,” she explained. “I don’t see this being about fan behaviour, per se, but instead about a larger culture of misogynistic trolling.”
While she can’t pinpoint why some people do this, she added there is some research that suggests some men feel threatened by the advancement of women.
Ayesha Curry is simply not Steph Curry’s wife — she is a well-known celebrity on her own.
“Trolling (is used as) a way to ‘lash out’ and try and restore male power,” she continued. “I would say though that it’s about much more than ‘getting a laugh’ and, instead, is about changing gendered power relations.”
Also speaking with Global News, Helen Lenskyj, Olympic critic and professor emerita at the University of Toronto, added that girlfriends and wives are also seen as the “weakest links” or “easy victims.” She said troll culture can be taken too far when it sinks to this level of misogyny.
“But pro athletes have to acknowledge, whether they like it or not, that they are public figures open to all sorts of public and media scrutiny,” she continued. “Certainly, most of them don’t sign on to be role models (as Charles Barkley said), but the reality is that they are, they and their families are in the public eye and their ‘handlers’ need to help them deal with this.”
Sexism beyond basketball and sports
Sarah Kaplan, director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy and professor of strategic management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, told Global News people are generally fascinated with the private lives of athletes and other celebrities, but targeting women, especially for trolling, is very different.
“The reason that people are trolling Ayesha Curry is because insulting women, putting down women, asserting dominance and authority over women… that’s a competitive thing,” she said. “That happens in all sorts of aspects of society, that’s (why) we have sexual harassment at work.”
Kaplan said that to the one Raptors fan who made vulgar comments about Ayesha Curry, it’s a classic misogynistic approach.
“We see it all over society where those kinds of things that are not sexual — they’re about dominance, they’re about authority (and) they’re about competition,” she explained.
While similar comments would not be made towards her husband, Kaplan said insulting him (and other men) often comes down to calling out their feminine characteristics.
Tackling any of this does not come with a quick solution.
“What we’re talking about is a fundamentally embedded structure of misogyny in our society,” she explained. “We’re not going to stop the trolling of sports players’ spouses… that’s not the problem. The problem we need to solve is that we have a society that condones violence against women.”
Kaplan said we can all start by calling people out for making sexist or misogynistic remarks — she was happy people during the CP24 live hit were taken aback by one man’s comment and how the reporter apologized to viewers right away.
“(Next is tackling) the fundamental belief that in society, violence against women is OK in the name of competition,” she said.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.