Northwestern ‘shrieker,’ upon being silenced, briefly becomes a quasi-celebrity


Christian Surtz/The Daily Northwestern

The shrieker does her thing. Emily Harriott was asked to stop being so loud at basketball games last week.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Assistant Sports Editor

Anyone who has been to a Northwestern men’s basketball game in the last three-plus years has likely heard a loud, high-pitched shriek reverberating within Welsh-Ryan Arena or wherever the Wildcats are playing.

But when NU hosted Iowa on Wednesday night, the siren-like noise was absent even though its source was not. That’s because Emily Harriott, who has been given the nickname “The Shrieker,” was asked to stop shrieking last week by the athletic department.

The Communication senior — who serves as the president of Wildside, NU’s official student section — was not prepared for what came next.

Teddy Greenstein (Medill ‘94), a sports reporter with the Chicago Tribune and a former Daily staffer, wrote a piece on Harriott in Feb. 2018, as Harriott’s shrieks were more audible when the Cats played in the cavernous and sparsely-attended Allstate Arena. Greenstein said he heard about NU’s decision to end the shriek and noticed its absence at the Iowa game, which led to him publishing a story in the Tribune the next day.

“He wrote it on Thursday, sent it out, and by that night I had multiple media requests, and honestly they’ve just kept coming,” Harriott said. “It’s been the coolest thing ever.”

Greenstein’s story on Thursday exploded so much that he followed up with another article on Friday, chronicling the many requests Harriott has received to appear on television, radio and more.

Harriott told The Daily that she did a segment for Chicago’s ABC-affiliate station, appeared on WGN Radio and was invited to be a VIP celebrity at Saturday’s Goose Island field goal challenge — an event staged by the local beer company in response to Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey’s late missed field goal during the team’s postseason loss on Jan. 6. Harriott was also discussed briefly on ESPN’s “Around the Horn.”

“It’s been incredible in terms of page views. It’s been enormous, and in terms of all the offers Emily’s getting to be on radio and TV, it’s been way bigger than I would have thought,” Greenstein told The Daily. “The internet likes unusual stories, and this is Exhibit A.”

Greenstein’s connection with Harriott began with an encounter at the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in Salt Lake City, where NU was making its first-ever tournament appearance. The following season, Greenstein tweeted something about the shrieking fan, not knowing that he had met her in person the previous year.

A friend of Harriott’s, Sumaia Masoom (SESP ‘18), connected Harriott and Greenstein on Twitter, and the two met again in person at the next home game. Greenstein’s initial story came out shortly thereafter.

“I made friends with (Harriott) largely by going to the games and she really stands out in the crowd,” Masoom said. “I would recommend that you don’t stand in front of her at a game, ever, and I learned that the hard way. I can understand why some people were uncomfortable. I don’t personally agree with the decision, but I guess Northwestern does as Northwestern wishes.”

Not surprisingly, the athletic department’s decision to ask Harriott to stop shrieking has led people to voice a variety of opinions on Twitter. Greenstein tweeted a screenshot of an email he received calling him an “asshole” because he did not criticize Harriott in his stories. Other fans were on Harriott’s side, condemning NU for silencing one of its best fans.

Mark Carman, a host for WGN Radio who had Harriott on his show on Saturday, said the element of controversy made it a bigger story.

“Holy energy, right? You can’t fake that level of enthusiasm,” Carman said. “It was fun to have her on, and I thought she represented herself great and represented the University great, and a lot of people are killing on her, and she’s taking it all in stride. I find that very impressive.”

Harriott is far from the first superfan who has gained attention for a particular act. Robin Schreiber, known popularly as Dance Cam Mom, has become something of a sensation for her dance performances on the jumbotron at Golden State Warriors games. Her Instagram account has over 45,000 followers.

Schreiber said her situation is different from Harriott’s, as she only dances when on camera during timeouts and a dance routine is less likely to be viewed as annoying than a scream, but she favors letting Harriott shriek so long as it is not affecting the game.

“If I were sitting next to somebody that had a loud scream, I think it would be annoying,” Schreiber said. “(But) if it’s not impeding the game in any way, my opinion is let her participate.”

As for Harriott herself, she has been embracing the attention and using it to talk about her love for Northwestern. She said a couple people even reached out to her on Twitter offering to have her in court and cover her legal fees, though she has no interest in taking legal action against the University.

Harriott said she believes the story will die down eventually, but she has definitely been enjoying her time in the spotlight.

“I’m super appreciative to all the people who have talked to me and I’ve met,” Harriott said. “I never would have thought I would be on ABC 7. I never thought I would be on WGN last night. I never thought I would be offered a celebrity appearance at the Goose Island kicking challenge, but I did, and I’ve met so many amazing people through this whole process, and it’s just been an absolute blast.”

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