Ban on Large Sugary Drinks: Personal Liberty vs. Personal Responsibility Issues
KPMG Insider Trading Scandal Damaging to the Reputation of the Accounting Profession

Cyber-Bullying in Sports

Canadian Tennis Star Suspends Her Career Due to Cyber-bullying

Imagine being ranked # 38 by the WTA and being named the Female Player of the Year by Tennis Canada two times, in 2010 and 2011, and then deciding to quit tennis because of cyber-bullying. This is the case of Rebecca Marino. The former Canadian tennis player suffers from depression and has been bullied about it on social media.

Marino had a big serve and a monster forehand. She had gone toe-to-toe with the great Venus Williams under the lights at the U.S. Open and appeared to be a bright a prospect. But after losing at Wimbledon in 2011, she announced that she was taking an indefinite leave, citing the scourge of depression after talking openly about the cyber-bullying and abuse she absorbed.

Within a year after that Wimbledon defeat, she had vanished from the women’s tour altogether. She tried to return last year, and even played in the Australian Open in January, but tumbled to No. 418 in the world.

“I have been suffering from a form of depression for many years,” she said. “Depression is nothing to be ashamed about. I’m hoping by opening up about this, I can encourage someone to get the help they deserve.”

In February 2013, she spoke of her past problems with social media to the New York Times. Internet criticism — including nasty Twitter messages from people who lost money after betting on her matches — was sometimes overwhelming. She said those people told her to burn in hell or to die.

“You know, there’s that saying ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.’ But that’s not true. Names definitely hurt. Words hurt," she told the newspaper.

She responded to taunts on Twitter about her weight, saying she was happy with her body. But the constant berating caused her to abruptly close down her Twitter and Facebook accounts, and then announcing she would stop playing. “Social media has been taking its toll on me,” she acknowledged.

Among the many sad aspects of this story is the real issues people face fighting depression. To be bullied on top of it can be debilitating and soul-destroying, as it clearly has been for Marino.

Marino has a great deal of inner-strength to have dealt with the problem while trying to move up in the WTA standings. One thing I know is she deserves better. She has strength for dealing with the depression openly and living with the taunting until it became too much.

Cyber-bullying is at epidemic proportions especially of school-age kids. I have blogged before about the use of social media to bully others. It is cowardly and violates just about every ethical standard there is, in particular being disrespectful, mean-spirited, and lacking in empathy.

Marino has not ruled out returning to tennis and I hope should does. A talent like hers should not be discarded because of bullying or for any other reason than it is time to retire. The tennis world is weaker as a result of what happened to her. Let’s wish all the best and to have a long and fulfilling life.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz aka Ethics Sage on April 8, 2013