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June 15, 2012

Sexual harrassment accusations against Geno Auriemma non-story

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Friday, June 15, 2012

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Auriemma coaching UConn during a game against the University of Texas a few years ago.
Image: Aaron V..

Although several media organizations, including Eurosport, the United Kingdom‘s Daily Mail, USA Today, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated reported on a breaking story about an accusation of sexual harassment that emerged against United States women’s national basketball team head coach Geno Auriemma in a case filed by Kelley Hardwick in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan earlier this week, the online community ignored the media-driven narrative.

According to Eurosport, Kelley Hardwick’s accusation stated “Auriemma followed her to her hotel room during a trip to Russia with the national team, grabbed her arm and tried to kiss her.” Eurosport goes on to report that, according to the court filing, when she rejected his advances, Team USA’s head coach “retaliated earlier this year by persuading the NBA to remove Hardwick as the top security official for the women’s team at the London Olympics this summer.”

On Twitter, Auriemma (@genoauriemma) remained largely silent as the story broke, posting only about the 2012 Summer Olympics.

In the women’s Olympic Team USA corner of Twitter, as of Thursday he ranked eighth with 9,322 followers behind Candace Parker (@Candace_Parker) with 128,165 followers, USA Basketball (@usabasketball) with 91,977 followers, Maya Moore (@MooreMaya) with 62,998 followers, Seimone Augustus (@seimoneaugustus) with 15,389, Tina Charles (@tinacharles31) with 12,465 followers, Tamika Catchings (@catchin24) with 11,094 followers and Lindsay Whalen (@Lindsay_13) with 10,932 followers. The controversy resulted in an increase in followers for Auriemma, with 25 new followers in the 24 hour period after the controversy broke, 27 in the second 24 hour period, but only 7 new followers on the third day. Relative to the players he coaches, these were low, as Parker and Moore both picked up followers at a greater number, and Augustus had comparable increases to her coach.

Mentions of Auriemma peaked on Twitter with around 1,000 per day on the day the story broke, 800 mentions more than Kelley Hardwick on the same day. A day later, this had dropped to 600, and then to around 200 the day after. Tweets were generally supportive of Auriemma, with several Twitter users including @sevenwithcheese , @Special_K_33 , @waltskelliepic and @jwitts12 indicating continued support for the coach, or a belief that Hardwick fabricated the story. Tweets about Hardwick rarely appeared independently: Almost all of them were connection with the coach.

Search interest for Auriemma remained lower than during previous stories about the coach, with Auriemma’s 2010 White House visit generating almost six times as many searches, and being declared one of the most interesting guys in sport in 2009 generating around three times as many. In the short term, greater volume of searches took place for Kelley Hardwick, Auriemma’s accuser, but this search activity was largely confined to the United States.

The news story did not lead people to visit either the official website for the University of Connecticut Huskies or Basketball USA, with neither website seeing measurable traffic peaks the day of, or the day after, the story broke.

YouTube largely ignored the story. Three days after the story broke, only one video mentioned both Auriemma and Kelley Hardwick, and it had fewer than twenty views. Only one other video mentioning Auriemma was uploaded in the same period. A television news station uploaded video mentioning the lawsuit, but not Hardwick, in the description, and viewing was minimal at twenty-four views as of Wednesday.

Scant references to the controversy exist on Google+, with only five mentions all time for the coach and zero happening in the past week.

During the height of the media coverage, few people flocked to Wikipedia for information on the coach; only 2,520 people viewed the English language article the day after the story broke. By Thursday, this article only had 197 views, about twice as many views as the article normally receives. No attempts were made to vandalize the article, and the article did not require admin attention to lock it down. The story is similar on Italian Wikipedia, where there article normally has five to ten views a day; it only saw a peak of 253 views the day after the story broke before returning to normal viewing levels. No apparent flow-on effect existed for the articles about Team USA on English, German, or French Wikipedia.

Despite the story, Auriemma’s place with Team USA going into the Olympics appears secure.


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