Twitter trolls directed their vitriol at WNBA star Breanna Stewart for stating a simple truth

Shalise Manza Young
Yahoo Sports Columnist

Tired, tired, tired.

The online comments about women’s sports not being “real” sports or female athletes not being “real” athletes are tired.

Not to mention unnecessary, ridiculous, demeaning, and flat-out sexist.

On Monday, Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart responded to one of those simple-minded comments from media personality and former rapper Joe Budden. “Seattle deserves a basketball team,” Budden tweeted while watching “The Last Dance.” Stewart chimed in with truth.

Stewart isn’t wrong: Seattle does have professional basketball, and a highly successful team at that. The Storm have won three WNBA championships in their history, most recently in 2018, when Stewart and ageless point guard Sue Bird led the franchise to the title over the Washington Mystics.

But that’s not the point here.

This is about the unending online toxicity women like Stewart endure.

Those who denigrate female basketball players will likely say it’s just jokes, but they’re not funny, which is usually necessary for something to qualify as a joke. Particularly since most of the men promoting the rhetoric wouldn’t have a chance against Stewart or her cohort on the basketball court.

Stewart is 6-foot-4 with an 85-inch wingspan. For most women that’d make her a post player, but Stewart is a guard. She’s been the best player at pretty much every level she’s competed at: a starter for the Cicero-North Syracuse High School team when she was still in 8th grade, a member of the U.S. Women’s Under-16 team when she was just 14, only the second high schooler ever to be chosen for the U.S. Pan American team, which is comprised of top college players. She led UConn to four NCAA championships in four seasons, and was the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player in each one.

The WNBA’s No. 1 pick in 2016, she was league MVP in her third season.

Stewart was hit with over 1,100 responses to her tweet. Many of them were supportive of Stewart and positive; some noted that the Sonics are missed, also a true statement.

A fair number, however, went down the same well-worn path.

“I think he means one people want to watch,” said one. “One people care about,” said multiple others.

One man who said he watches Storm games with his daughter was met by a fellow who called him a “simp.”

The thing that’s most vexing about the hatred that WNBA players and other female athletes deal with is the particular kind of emotion it elicits. The WNBA has been around for more than two decades. Its new collective bargaining agreement shows it’s not going anywhere. This year’s draft was the highest-rated in league history since 2004. Vocal advocates range from LeBron James to the late Kobe Bryant.

And still this vitriol continues.

If their excellence doesn’t appeal to you, don’t watch. It’s that simple. The current media environment means there are dozens, if not hundreds, of options to choose from.

I haven’t watched one episode of “Game of Thrones” and to me going on Twitch to watch someone else play video games is as appealing as eating rotten strawberries. Yet I’ve never gone into Ninja’s mentions to tell him so or gone into yours to crudely say you’re flawed for watching “GoT” with your significant other.

Stewart isn’t the only woman who has to deal with such refuse online. Far from it, and that’s the problem. There’s nothing to be gained from weak attempts to knock a successful woman, and if doing so offers even a momentary feeling of glee it says a lot more about you than it does Stewart.

The extra step of going into the mentions of a young woman — possibly the best pound-for-pound player in her sport — to denigrate her and her team is childish at best. Especially when in this case all she did was state an indisputable fact: Seattle has a basketball team.

Stewart was standing up for her team, her league, and making a simple declaration, and for that she was met with a barrage of negativity and mocking. Talk about an overreaction. A tired one at that.

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