NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 3, 2014

'Mama Bear' takes up fight against social media comments

SALISBURY — As the mother of a son who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth 20 years ago, Sue Mitchell gives everyone fair warning.

“My nickname is Mama Bear,” said Mitchell. “And when my claws come out, they are sharp.”

Mitchell’s claws were drawn last Tuesday night when her son Sean was photographed off a NESN broadcast of a Bruins game eating a hot dog without a bun — he is unable to eat a bun. The awkward photo was posted on the popular website Boston Barstool Sports, which caters to male-centric, locker room humor. Sean was described as being “savage” for eating the hot dog in such a manner, and quickly the photo generated numerous denigrating comments.

“All because Sean ate a hot dog without a roll, this has completely exploded,” said Mitchell. “We are not looking for attention. We did not ask for this. But I will not sit back and sweep it under the rug.”

That incident has begun an effort by the Mitchells and their legion of supporters to draw attention to mean-spirited posts made on social media, and to make their authors more accountable for their actions.

The effort began almost immediately after the photo was posted. Friends of the Mitchells saw the photo as well and emailed the site. Within an hour, the photo and blog post were taken down by Barstool Sports owner and founder, David Portnoy.

“He looked like your average 20-year-old guy and that is right in our wheelhouse,” said Portnoy. “That is exactly what we post. That’s what we do. There was no malicious intent and I did everything that I could after to make it go away.”

Portnoy also called the Mitchells to apologize.

“He is sorry,” Mitchell said of Portnoy. “He did apologize, he was sincere. He said to take his number and keep him in mind if we ever had a fundraiser, if we ever needed a donation for Special Olympics, he would be more than happy to help.”

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