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A proud father logged on to Twitter on Feb. 25 and tweeted:
Congrats to Gabby Schilling who will pitch for the Salve Regina Seahawks next year!!
— Curt Schilling (@gehrig38) February 25, 2015
After that, the deluge.
Curt Schilling, former major league pitcher, World Series MVP and dad to Gabby joined Bill Littlefield on Only A Game.
BL: Publicly congratulating your daughter on choosing a college and joining the softball team provoked a lot of exceptionally ugly and obscene responses. How did you feel as those tweets started rolling in?
CS: Listen, I've been a public figure for an extended period. I know that some unwanted publicity comes with the territory, and that there are always going to be those guys out in public, which, I expected, and I got. And I kind of had a little give-and-take with a couple guys and, you know, that was fun. Then it really went from zero to 100 immediately. Then I got a really, really nasty tweet. And it was one of those doing a double-take. I read it, and I thought, "OK, this is going to be a problem." And they started to just pile in after that.
BL: As you say in your blog, you are no stranger to social media. You’ve spent most of your life in locker rooms. There’s vulgarity in both spaces, of course. Looking back, do you think you could have anticipated the response to your tweet?
"There's locker room talk and then there's criminal talk. ... This is not about people getting on me. This is not about people bullying me on the Internet. This is about my daughter. My 17-year-old daughter."Curt Schilling, former MLB pitcher
CS: No. No, no, no. And this is not vulgarity. These are sexual threats to a minor. There's a difference. There's locker room talk and then there's criminal talk and in some cases, in some instances [it] broke the law, very clearly broke the law. And lastly, this is my daughter. This is not about people getting on me. This is not about people bullying me on the Internet. This is about my daughter. My 17-year-old daughter. There are teenage girls all over this country who have been belittled and bullied online who have killed themselves. So I'm done hearing, "That's the way it is, that's the world we live in." No it's not. We don't have to allow it to be. You don't have to be a celebrity, you don't have to have money to fix this. You just have to expose these people.
BL: In another response, you wrote: “I can and will find you and if what you have done has harmed my children, this will not end well.” Isn’t that just the sort of language likely to further encourage the kind of people who posted the obscene material?
CS: If people don't understand: There are people that are going to go to jail over this. There are people that will have the label "sex offender" with them for the rest of their lives. I'm not, again I'm not being threatening or a tough guy, I'm being a dad. You know, I have two jobs in this world. And one of them is to put a roof over my family's head, the other is to protect them and if I can't do both those things who am I? What am I doing?
BL: You know, I have to say that when I read that "I can and will find you" it sounded a little like you were channeling Liam Neeson.
CS: (Laughs) Well again, anybody that's a dad out there, whether you have boys or girls, understands exactly what I meant. There is very few things in this world that I'd go to jail for. My family's one of them.
BL: There have, as you suggested, been consequences. Within 24 hours, at least nine commenters had lost their jobs or been kicked off athletic teams because of tweets they sent in response to your congratulating your daughter. Is this what you were hoping would happen when you decided to start trying to identify these guys?
CS: I didn't have a hope. I didn't really care what happened to them in that sense because, again, this is my daughter. This is not a mistake. A mistake is tweeting something and then saying, "You know what? I shouldn't have said that," and erasing it. I gave every one of these guys a chance to stop. And the ones that didn't, you know, you make your bed. Part of growing up and part of living in the world is being held accountable.
BL: Some people have suggested that perhaps you should just shut down the tweets and let this nasty business die, which in the natural course of events it certainly would do. Why not do that?
[sidebar title="Fathers and Daughters in Sports"] Only A Game's Bill Littlefield reviews a compilation of short stories about father-daughter bonding through sports. [/sidebar]
CS: For me to allow people that don't know me to dictate the things I do and say in my life, that's absurd. That's ridiculous. So, if we turn our heads the other way, women will stop being raped? Crimes will stop being committed? It doesn't work that way. The world doesn't work that way. And in this country, it doesn't have to.
BL: Have you and your daughter discussed this whole phenomenon, and specifically the tweets that have come in?
CS: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. My daughter got sent private messages, personal messages in all this. What you saw was a very small part of this. Yeah, I talked to her because my daughter's — she's an incredibly strong woman. And she was devastated when this initially happened. But, you know what, after a couple of days she finally said "Screw it, I'm going to pick myself up and get after it." And that's the kind of thing that makes me incredibly proud.
BL: You know, it's interesting to me that you are such a user of social media. When you told people about your cancer diagnosis and then the terrible difficulties you went through with your treatments you didn't get this sort of negative and obscene response, right?
CS: No. I didn't. For the most part no.
BL: Tell me a little about what that response was.
CS: It was good. For the most part, it was good. I wasn't on the Internet for an extended period of time because I was in the hospital for about three months. But a lot of people reaching out, a lot of survivors reaching out, people that had gone through the same thing I was going through. You know, for the most part it was very positive.
BL: What is your hope in terms of anything positive that might come out of this ugliness?
CS: I would urge people, especially young women, to check out the local laws in your state for cyber-bullying because I think a lot of times crimes are being committed and people don't know.
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