Back in the year 1860, the Pony Express was known to be the fastest and most efficient method of sending mail. It had taken approximately ten days for a horse to travel across the country and deliver the parcels to their recipients, an astonishingly short amount of time for the people of that particular era. A little over 150 years after the inception of the Pony Express, technological advances have been made and it is safe to say that a simple message to a friend no longer takes ten days to send, nor does it travel by horse. Now, in the year 2012, a message can be sent simply with a few clicks on a keyboard or a couple clicks of a cell phone. Along with the gratification that comes along with knowing that your message was sent and received instantly, there comes a few dangers. These hazards become a greater risk for those individuals who are in the spotlight, especially professional athletes.
If an athlete makes a controversial remark about any issue, he makes himself subject to mass public scrutiny; from there, the athlete may lose the respect of his fans, supporters, and even teammates based on his stance on the particular topic. An athlete may be so preoccupied by social media and how the world perceives them that he may lose focus on his main goal, which is performing well in his sport. Many professional sports leagues have rules set in place against athletes expressing their opinions of certain sports-related topics on social media, so if a player steps out of line and disobeys one of these rules he is subject to a heavy fine enforced by the league’s officials. Social media shouldn’t be used by professional athletes because of the intense microscope they are under on an everyday basis.
Professional athletes have a huge following while participating in their craft, but once they enter the world of social media, especially Twitter, some athletes see this crowd start to dwindle down. Many believe that although fans may root for a player during a game, it does not necessarily translate into support off the field in their social life., In Mark Emmons’ Mercury News article entitled “Amid Giants World Series, Twitter gives fans a glimpse into athletes’ lives,” Harry Edwards, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of sociology, states that: The [San Francisco] 49ers want guys to interact with fans, but they want them to be smart because when you put something out there, it’s out there forever. It could end up in your obituary. But it’s important that fans can feel like they can talk to an athlete and say, ‘Maybe it was a tough day at the office for you guys Sunday, but you’ll get ’em next week.’
Figure.1 Stoudemire’s actions on Twitter epitomize that anything that is done over social media can be publicized and scrutinized in an instant. Figure.1 Stoudemire’s actions on Twitter epitomize that anything that is done over social media can be publicized and scrutinized in an instant. Although he has always been on rival opposing teams, Amar’e Stoudemire had been one of my favorite NBA players to watch due to his toughness and high-flying ability. When I first joined Twitter in 2011 he was one of the first people that I knew I had to follow. Unlike some athletes before him, he was—by most people’s standards—a respected professional basketball player who did most of his trash talking between the basketball court’s lines rather than blowing up on Twitter after a game.
However, during late June of this year, Stoudemire’s reputation and fan following took a major hit after he angrily messaged a fan in response to the fan’s tweet questioning Stoudemire’s performance on the court. In the direct message as shown in Figure 1.1, Stoudemire uses slanderous and even anti-gay slurs which are blocked out with black boxes. Although he apoligized after the picture went viral, the damage had already been done and his reputation had taken a permanent hit. Stoudemire had begun to lose long-time supporters, including myself, because of the reaction he had to a simple criticism he received over Twitter. Everything an athlete does, especially over social media websites, is heavily scrutinized and can land him in an uncomfortable and unwanted position in the public.
All professional athletes must be aware of the fact that with all of the intense training that they put forth in hopes of perfecting their particular craft, social media outlets, especially Twitter and Facebook, can provide unnecessary distractions that may interfere with their performance. It has become such an addiction to some players that they cannot bear to go a whole game without tweeting or writing a status update about their team’s performance. A few years ago during halftime of a game against the Boston Celtics, Charlie Villanueva of the Milwaukee Bucks tweeted this, leading to then-head coach Scott Skiles banning Twitter use during games: “In da locker room, snuck to post my twitt. We’re playing the Celtics, tie ball game at da half. Coach wants more toughness. I gotta step up.” (si.com “Twitter Trouble”) The pressures put on athletes by fans is not only felt here in the United States, but also on a global level.
Before the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm was by far the favorite to win in the 100-meter backstroke, but was just edged out by American teenager Missy Franklin. When asked about her performance, Seebohm claimed to have been distracted by all of the posts from friends and fans back in her home country, causing a lack of sleep and mental preparation that goes into earning a gold medal at the Olympics. (The Telegraph) Professional athletes around the world should not be using any social media or social networking devices because of the negative impact it can have on their on-field performance and thus blocking them from reaching their maximum potential and skill level.
It is a necessity for athletes to be cautious with their word choice because of the fines they may receive as a result of their comments. In an April 2012 Time magazine, then Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen blurted out that he loved and respected oppressive Cuban leader Fidel Castro for his unwillingness to be caught and brought down by those looking to end his reign as tyrant. (Time Magazine) These comments were not well received by the Miami community—made up of mostly Cuban immigrants who fled the country to escape from its unruly dictator. Guillen received a five game suspension, but the stain on his reputation was never completely removed.
Since the preseason comments made regarding Castro, Guillen continued to make negative comments about his team’s performance, leading to multiple fines from the team’s owner and a loss of respect from a city as a whole. On October 23,2012, just over a year from initially being hired as the Marlins’ manager, Guillen was fired because of a combination of lack of wins on the field and an excess of controversial remarks made off the field of play. Athletes and coaches both need to watch whatever they say to the media or on a social networking site because of the ramifications that the comments may have with the team or sponsors they are currently working for.
Many sports fans, myself included, agree that they enjoy witnessing and reading about how the everyday lifestyle of a professional athlete plays out through social media outlets. Despite the enjoyment that I experience from getting an inside glimpse of a professional athlete’s life, I do realize the issue that they may not be setting a prime model for the younger generation that look up to them.
No, not all athletes are monsters made out to destroy a child’s innocence through their Twitter, but there are enough poor examples in the world to raise the question of whether or not these athletes should have their own social media outlets due to the issue of molding a younger generation into respectable adults that didn’t have their “hero’s” identity ripped away by one careless tweet or status update sent out. In the social media world we live in the question is not whether or not we enjoy seeing an athlete’s life play out over Twitter or any other social media outlet, but whether or not the material they post is ethical enough to keep their “professional” status.
We are constantly told that our generation is going through a technological revolution. In fact, new, simpler ways of communicating with each other are being invented every day. However, there is one group that has to be more cautious of what they send out over these social outlets than the rest of us do, celebrities, and in particular athletes. Athletes are constantly being thrown under the spotlight for controversial Figure 2 Although Rashard Mendenhall is exercising his right to free speech, his remarks garnered much animosity toward him and his team.
Figure 2 Although Rashard Mendenhall is exercising his right to free speech, his remarks garnered much animosity toward him and his team. remarks made on social media websites, from Rashard Mendenhall of the Pittsburgh Steelers criticizing people for celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden (Figure 2) to TJ Lang of the Green Bay Packers bashing replacement referees for a blown last second call that cost his team the game. These statements made by athletes can cause them to lose fans across the country and possibly the globe. Social media also provides unwanted distractions to athletes everywhere that may take their mind off of performing to their utmost capability. Also, it can become such a problem that a team may eventually cut or fire a player based off of previous controversial comments made by the athlete. Professional athletes shouldn’t have access to social media outlets, despite the amusement fans see from their day-to-day access.
Babel, Ryan. “Twitter Trouble.” N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. <http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/0911/twitter.trouble/content.5.ht ml>.
Berman, Len. “Trending Stories.” Mashable. N.p., 4 Jan. 2010. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. <http://mashable.com/2010/01/04/social-media-athletes/>. Ottesen, Didrik. “London 2012 Olympics: Australian Swimmer Emily Seebohm Blames Twitter and Facebook for Failure.” Editorial. The Telegraph [London] 31 July 2012: n. pag. The Telegraph. 31 July 2012. Web. 21 Oct. 2012.
<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/news/9440774/London-2012-Olympics- Australian-swimmer-Emily-Seebohm-blames-Twitter-and-Facebook-for-failure.html>. Ortiz, Maria B. “Twitter Gaffes Begat Punishment for Athletes.” ESPN. Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, 27 July 2012. Web. 21 Oct. 2012.
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