Arizona Student Sports Editor: ‘For One Weekend, I Was Least Popular Person on Twitter’

Last weekend, University of Arizona senior Megan Coghlan morphed into #MeganCoghlanSucks. The derisive Twitter hashtag was one part of a fairly massive, eye-opening cyberbullying campaign carried out — more or less — by Washington State University football supporters.

The 30-second backstory: On Friday, a day before UA and WSU were set to meet in a conference football match-up, Coghlan wrote an in-your-face Yahoo! Sports blog post denouncing WSU for sporting “no real traditions, nothing to define itself, no rich football history and a sad lack of identity.” The post was featured on a blog known for its “trash-talk pre-game series” in which supporters from schools whose football squads are about to square off trade barbs.

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Simple enough — and all in good fun? Normally. But Coghlan’s two cents instead inspired “thousands of expletive emails, Facebook messages and tweets. … Then it got personal. Even a hashtag was created: #MeganCoghlanSucks. Coghlan said she received threats and people telling her to kill herself.”

Many of these startling communiques apparently arrived after Washington State pulled out an upset win over Arizona, 24-17. As The Pacific Northwest Inlander reports:

“When the Cougs actually won, Coghlan became the designated target of WSU fans’ celebratory rage. Fans found her Twitter account, forcing her to make it private. They found her on Instagram. They posted the college newsroom phone numbers for her and the editor-in-chief. Within the state, #MeganCoghlanSucks was briefly trending on Twitter. Someone made a not-very-funny parody Twitter account. Some tweets directed her way were absurd and generic enough to be more funny than mean. ‘Megan Coghlan listens to Nickelback.’ ‘Megan Coghlan tells children Santa isn’t real.’ ‘Megan Coghlan sucks more than Pac-12 refs.’ But a lot were just plain mean. Not even trying to be funny.”

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Coghlan, co-sports editor of UA’s student newspaper The Daily Wildcat, said people called her “a slut, whore, c*nt, bitch and many derogatory female-based terms. … For one weekend, I was the least popular person on Twitter, according to Washington State University fans. Not Miley Cyrus, not Barack Obama or Taylor Swift, but me.”

Coghlan subsequently confirmed that she does not hold any real animus toward the WSU faithful. She was simply following the spirit of past “trash-talk” posts on that particular Yahoo! Sports blog. But especially after the Cougars surprise win, that detail became eclipsed by the sheer force of the all-out cyberbullying war waged against her, her privacy, her family, her knowledge of sports as a woman and her right to remain among the living.

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As she explains in a column for the Wildcat headlined “Cyberbullying: Enough is Enough”:

“I expected negative responses, sure. When you talk trash, you expect to get trash back. But the overflow of sexism and cruelty that flooded my inbox and social media accounts was far out of proportion for a trash-talk column before a football game. As if they’d never heard their sports team take a hit before, people were getting worked up enough to track me down all over the Internet or find my phone number just to call me a cunt. Because they didn’t like a thing I wrote. … I am not ashamed of what I wrote. I am ashamed of the reaction. Trash-talk is a part of sports. Harassment, sexism and threats should not be.”

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