There is outrage in Maine and beyond after now-fired announcers body-shamed players on a high school varsity girls basketball team.
This past Thursday evening, WHOU was broadcasting a junior varsity basketball game between Caribou High School and Fort Kent Community High School.
The two now-fired announcers were watching another Maine high school girls varsity game, between Easton High School and Central Aroostook High School, while preparing to call a girls varsity game between Caribou and Fort Kent and a hot mic picked up their comments.
In videos published online, announcer Jim Carter can be heard describing two girls as "extremely overweight, awful."
His partner, Steve Shaw, makes a comment about finding "uniforms that fit the girls."
Carter then replies referencing one girl by her uniform number and says, "Look at her...wow."
Immediately, the following morning, WHOU’s owner, Fred Grant, said that the broadcasters had been "terminated" and called their comments "inappropriate" and "blatantly wrong."
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Grant’s post goes on to say in part:
"For the last 11 years we’ve had the privilege of broadcasting students as they participate in the sports and events that they are passionate about with the people, teams and ensembles they love. We see the pride their families have for their students and the team as a whole…
In all the events we cover, every single one of our students gets better, they learn and they grow. Every day they face the challenges of their situation, whether it be on the court, at home or at school, but the important part is that they keep going. All of our students deserve our respect. Our students are living through the most challenging times in our history. Not only are they struggling through a pandemic, they also have the challenges of living in an age of social media which many of us would say that’s even worse than the pandemic.
I apologize that the broadcasters failed to see this fundamental belief and I apologize for their behavior. I know they are remorseful and I believe they, too, will continue to learn from their mistakes."
Hundreds of comments in support of the girls and Shaw and Carter’s termination have since been posted on the initial WHOU Facebook post, with people as far away as Oklahoma saying they were "disgusted" to hear about the incident.
Mark Stanley, the superintendent for the Easton School Department where the girls attend class said he was "horrified" to learn about what had happened as a parent himself and called the offensive remarks "nonsense."
"The kids are our primary focus, making sure they’re OK...whatever the kids need we’re there to support them," he told NECN/NBC 10 Boston affiliate, NEWS CENTER Maine.
"When the kids entered the building they were just hit with support from staff and students," added Stanley, who mentioned that Easton had received supportive messages for the girls from other school districts along with flowers meant to cheer them up.
Dr. Fatima Watt, vice president and director of Behavioral Health Services at Franciscan Children’s Hospital says that type of support is critical for anyone in a situation where similar comments are directed at them.
"There’s a potential for significant impact on these girls’ mental health," said Watt during a Tuesday interview.
In these types of incidents, Watt says she worries about someone developing "anxiety, low self-esteem, withdrawing from the public, withdrawing from social events because you don’t want to be criticized and all of that can carry from adolescence into adulthood."
Watt added that there are steps any parent can take to start a conversation about body-shaming or similar experiences with their children, whether comments are broadcast in public, on social media or are made in private by adults or other children.
"The first thing is to talk to your children, find out if they are having experiences like this," she said.
"That’s going to be really important for you to know so that you can address it, so you can give them some strategies, for how to take care of themselves, validate their concerns and help them see all the positives and strengths within themselves," she added.
Watt also pointed out that, in terms of this body-shaming incident, that the story itself "is really important for everyone to hear," alongside the "collective voice saying 'this is not OK.'"