Another week and another news story involving a celebrity, Twitter, and sports. Maybe it is time to consider renaming our site from EsqWired to US Wired Illustrated? Sorry, it's the best I could on such short notice. Wow. That was bad. Oh well. Onward and upward.
Two weeks ago, it was Curt Schilling defending his daughter's honor after some inappropriate tweets were sent in response to him congratulating her publicly on a personal accomplishment. Following him making the rounds with the media, a few of those Twitter users lost their jobs and, as far as we know, Schilling is exploring potential legal avenues to prosecute the alleged offenders. You can read all about it right here.
Last week we told you about Elisha Cuthbert and her NHL captain husband seeking legal relief following a sports network airing a tweet calling into question Cuthbert's fidelity. Following an on-air apology from the network, it remains to be seen where that dispute will go, but you can read about what has happened so far here.
This week's story is brought to us courtesy of even more people that apparently seem to believe that you can say whatever you want on Twitter to whomever you want and that there will be no repercussions. Not much has changed over the last two weeks, but you would think that with the high profile nature of the Schilling and Cuthbert stories, Twitter users might be on their best behavior. Wrong. So, so wrong.
The story began this past Sunday evening, during the SEC Tournament championship game between the University of Kentucky Wildcats and the Arkansas Razorbacks. During the game and after a super-awkward kiss with Dick Vitale (how has no one made a Kiss the Girls (1997) reference about this yet? - get it together internet), Ashley Judd took to Twitter to express her displeasure with some of the gameplay going on and, as she saw it, unfairly prejudicing her Wildcats due to the Razorbacks "playing dirty." We've all done it. In a few short weeks, you will surely find me on Twitter questioning the umpires that are, through their suspect officiating, costing my precious Chicago Cubs victory after victory. (This is our year!) Ms. Judd's commonplace and relatively innocuous tweets were met with some opposition. Not the type of opposition that I might receive from a Cardinals fan (can they even read? hey-o!), but rather opposition that Judd herself described as being "called a whore, c----" and threatening her with "sexual violence." As Judd pointed out, and I am sure as most would agree, this was "not okay."
As more and more celebrities seem to be doing these days following potentially actionable conduct via social media, Ms. Judd decided to be proactive and address these comments both on Twitter by retweeting at least one example of what was being directed at her and, secondarily and more importantly, she spent the entire day Monday filling out police reports designed to bring attention to what happened and press charges against the Twitter users that published the complained of tweets. As Judd told NBC News, "the amount of gender violence that I experienced is absolutely extraordinary. Everyone needs to take personal responsibility for what they write and not allowing this misinterpretation and shaming culture on social media to persist. And by the way, I'm pressing charges."
As we discussed in the Curt Schilling story, it will be interesting to see how far law enforcement will go following Judd's complaints, but criminal law (and civil law) are bound to eventually catch up to Twitter. There have been a rash of new criminal and civil cases popping up across the country over the last 12 months and involving Twitter. and it looks like both local and federal law enforcement are becoming increasingly comfortable addressing these types of complaints. In years past, it is likely that law enforcement bodies may have struggled to understand what their abilities and jurisdiction were with bullying or threats that took place exclusively online. While it is unfortunate that it requires the story to involve a celebrity to really make news, perhaps this is what the issue needs to become one that finally tips. If there ends up being one landmark and high-profile case that goes all the way (either criminally or civilly), it will give law enforcement authorities, victims, and attorneys something to point to when other instances of similar conduct occur. This could help hold responsible parties accountable and, hopefully, deter future conduct.
As we always promise to do, we will keep an eye on this and let you know if and when something develops on the criminal front following Judd's decision to press charges. If you have any questions about this or any other stories, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
- Matt Campobasso