2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens says online harassment and abuse is real as she admits she is sometimes afraid to unlock her phone because of the messages that might be awaiting for her. Stephens, 29, is well-experienced, having turned pro in 2009.
In recent years, online harassment and abuse have become a major problem, not only in tennis, but in all sports. After losses, players receive all kind of negative messages, mostly from angry bettors. "Many of you might first associate me with being a professional tennis player, which of course is my day job, but it’s not the sound of who I am.
I’m a daughter, a sister, a wife, and I’m more than an athlete, more than a label. It is all disregarded when people online seek to harass me and harm me. Whether I win or lose, someone online is mad and they will make it known.
There have been times when I am walking off the court after a loss and not even thinking about anything related to tennis. I'm just worried as I know what will be waiting for me when I unlock my phone," Stephens said at the White House.
Stephens: I've been harassed and threatened
Every time Stephens receives a negative message online, it triggers some of her past traumatic experiences. Stephens acknowledged that she is aware that it is tough to stay lowkey when you are a public figure but noted her safety should never be threatened.
"People know where I live and everything I do. I’ve been harassed and threatened. I understand that I am a public figure so this comes with the scope of my work. But that access and exposure should never come at the expense of my safety.
It is so triggering to constantly advocate for myself and relive the trauma of these messages while getting more messages because I'm speaking up," Stephens added.