Female golfer Paige Spiranac has shared the cyber-abuse she received after her first tournament in Dubai.
With 1.3m followers on Instagram Paige is more exposed than most to personal attacks online.
However, it was her appearance that led to the worst abuse online, including death threats.
Speaking to The Guardian Paige revealed how stressful the attacks were:
I had a really rough go of it both times I was here, it was really stressful and I found the experience really hard.
People seem to think I got where I am because of the clothes that I wear. That’s unfair to me and unfair to all of my accomplishments. For people to say: ‘You only show some cleavage, that’s why you have what you have,’ is unfair. That’s the injustice that we face every day as women and I see it a lot in golf.
While Paige’s social media does indeed include some images where she’s chosen to reveal her cleavage, it’s worth noting that she is always covered on the pitch.
This is what she wore in her first gold tournament in Dubai 2015:
The controversy over Paige seems to be more complicated than her choice of attire. There is a lot of suggestion that she should never have been selected to play in Dubai at all.
According to Rolex Rankings Spiranac is ranked 1,191 in the world of golf. So it raised a few eyebrows when she was invited to play in the Dubai’s Ladies European Tour events in 2015.
Had an amazing week at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic! Being the first female starter was such an honor. Thank you to @omegagolfdubai, @europeantour, and all the players for making me feel so welcomed for the week! Also thanks to @rorymcilroy and @niallhoran for being so awesome during the pro am and the clinic. You are both superstars but some of the nicest, most genuine guys ever! It was a busy but great week. Next up, the Waste Management Tournament in Arizona! See you all there!
Many claimed that she was only selected because of her huge social media following in an attempt to broaden the appeal of golf and the tournament.
If this was the case, it is obviously unfair on the other players who are more talented but less popular online. It seems to run counter to the spirit of sport in general that people should be included based on anything other than ability.
That said, as un-golf as Paige’s public persona is online, is it really any different to all of David Beckham’s Calvin Klein campaigns or literally anything Cristiano Ronaldo does online?
Becoming a ‘personality’ that brands can attach themselves to has been a part of how athletes finance themselves for decades now. Paige is just ahead of the curve by building her fanbase online first instead of on the green.
Paige’s fame and the public reaction to it says more about the nature of social media and sport itself than about her. She is simply incredibly good at playing the game off the green and has attracted a lot of vitriol for it.
Despite the accusations of unfairness after her inclusion in the Dubai tournament and whatever you may think of how Paige decides to promote herself online, there is no doubting the seriousness of what she’s suffered:
I was harassed, my family was harassed, I was receiving death threats, people were invading my privacy, I was being blackmailed. This was going on whilst I was trying to play.
At the end of the day they are called sports personalities for a reason, and no-one can deny the force of Paige’s personality and her desire to shake up the conservative world of golf.