In an essay published on The Players’ Tribune, a website that allows athletes to write first-person narratives, a homegrown women’s soccer star opened up Thursday about her struggles with negative body image and a flood of negative attention that followed a viral online story highlighting her looks.
Morgan Reid, who was recently drafted by the North Carolina Courage after a successful college and prep career at Duke and Cardinal Gibbons (she was The News & Observer’s 2013-14 female high school athlete of the year), recounted how photos on her personal Instagram appeared on Barstool Sports, a website that appeals to men by mixing sports, satire and pop culture, in a 2016 story that deemed her “the hottest athlete in college sports.”
The popular website drove people to Reid’s social media accounts. She was unaware of the story until she noticed a dramatic uptick of followers on her social media with comments flooding in – many of them negative – by the thousands.
She gives examples of some of the comments she received like: “She’s pretty, but too thick.” “Your body is nice, but your face is busted.” “Ewww, she looks like a man. Being that muscular isn’t cute.”
Reid wrote she tried to tune it out at first, but they kept coming.
“It was like my body was under a microscope. My photos were being probed and picked apart by strangers. Throughout my years of studying at Duke I had garnered a whole new appreciation for the human body, but suddenly it felt like I was the specimen being looked at,” Reid wrote.
Her Twitter account had been made private until recently, and she tweeted out the Players’ Tribune story on Thursday afternoon.
“For women, attention can be a really complicated thing,” she wrote. “After sending a few emails, I was able to persuade only one website to take its piece down. But at that point, it was just too late. I had gone viral.”
With the help of her teammates, she said, she was able to deal with the negativity.
“We all had similar experiences, and I think by talking about it we realized how ridiculously hard on ourselves we were being,” Reid wrote. “By understanding that we shared many of the same self-doubts, we made active efforts to support each other as often as we could. Only good things come from reminding your friends that they are beautiful – just the way they are.”
Reid said she was recently recognized on a flight as the subject of the viral story, but wants to be known for her accomplishments, not her looks.
She wrote about the exchange: “‘Yes, I am Morgan Reid,’ I said to my seatmate in a polite tone. ‘I was a four-year starter at a top five Division I program, while also being premed in the classroom. I’m about to get my diploma from Duke University and hopefully start my professional soccer career. Nice to meet you.’ For a few moments, I felt great. I’d set the record straight – with one person, at least.”
When she was drafted by the Courage, (her hometown team, Reid grew up in Cary) on Jan. 18, she found relief in the conversation that followed with her new coaches.
“It wasn’t what they said so much as what they didn’t. They just wanted to talk to me about soccer. Nothing else. To them, I was simply a player – judged for my work ethic and my hard-earned abilities. A lot of what is said about me on the Internet is out of my control. But on that day, I made my own headline.”