Salisbury resident Sean Mitchell believed he must have done something wrong when he heard his mother, Sue, explode over speakerphone on his way home from the Bruins game Tuesday night.
Sean, a 20-year-old who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, attended the game with his father, Bob. The Salisbury residents used a pair of season tickets to sit behind the Bruins bench, and Sean was captured by NESN cameras eating a hot dog without a bun during the first period.
“Sean has problems with muscular control,” Sue Mitchell said. “He loves to eat hot dogs and have refreshments. He can’t eat a hot dog in a bun. It’s easier for him to take a hot dog out and eat it that way.”
Sue Mitchell was enraged when a screenshot of the NESN telecast was published on the satirical sports website, Boston Barstool Sports, with a headline that called Sean “a savage” for eating the hot dog without a bun.
“There was some sexual innuendo,” Sue Mitchell said. “I’m disgusted by this. He’s special needs trying to eat. His outlet is going to Bruins and Patriots games, and now he’s not going to want to eat a hot dog again in public. I want to get this out showing what Boston Barstool Sports did.”
The Barstool blog post was published at 9:51 p.m., and was removed from the site about an hour later. Boston Barstool Sports owner and founder David Portnoy said yesterday there was no intent to pick on someone who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
“A bunch of people sent the photo, and I actually thought it was a funny picture,” Portnoy said. “A lot of people did. It was a two-second post, and we took it down maybe an hour later. It had nothing to do with the kid. We thought it’s a normal kid who chooses to eat a hot dog without a bun.”
Sue Mitchell called her husband on his drive back from the TD Garden, and shared the events of the evening without realizing the conversation was audible to Sean.
“I didn’t realize I was on speakerphone, and Sean heard the whole conversation,” Sue Mitchell said. “I wasn’t cool about it. I was very verbal. After Bobby hung up, Sean asked, ‘Daddy, what did I do wrong? I was just taking small bites of a hot dog.’”
Friends and family of the Mitchells expressed their displeasure for the Barstool post by emailing the site’s tip line. Portnoy removed the post as soon as he realized Mitchell has cerebral palsy.
“Obviously, I’m not in the business of making fun of people with disabilities,” Portnoy said. “He looked like a normal person. Once I found out, I took it down. Most people who read us kind of get that stuff like this can happen. The intent wasn’t to make fun of him. I just thought it was funny to eat a hot dog without a bun.”
Sue Mitchell said she contacted the Bruins and Barstool Sports, but as of yesterday afternoon, had not heard back from a representative of either party. A Bruins public relations representative did not respond to a voicemail from The Daily News yesterday, but it is important to note that the Bruins are not affiliated with Barstool Sports.
“We’re looking for an apology,” Sue Mitchell said. “There won’t be any legal action, we just want an apology. People don’t realize words hurt. He’s had so many struggles to overcome, and to have somebody ignorant write something about Sean is mind-blowing.”
Sean Mitchell graduated from Triton in 2012 after completing 12 seasons of cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track during his four years at the school.