The Big Dance and Social Media

I thought for this blog topic, I’d try to appeal to my followers that are sports fanatics!  Even if you’re not a sports fan, it is hard not to turn on the television in late March/early April and get suckered into watching the final few seconds of a neck in neck basketball game in the craziness of March Madness. As you have probably noticed, there are endless rules associated with the tournament, designed to cover even the most miniscule infractions.  Surprisingly enough, even though you would think these rules extend into social media, they are still yet to do be defined when it comes down to how to deal with the issue of student-athletes and social media.

I guess the biggest issue that comes up is how to control what your favorite student-athlete says via Facebook, Twitter, etc., without violating the individual’s freedom of speech rights.  This topic continues to be an on-going challenge, and neither the NCAA, nor its member institutions, have quite figured out exactly what the solution should be.

There have been many instances of public tweets where student-athletes have vocalized their opinions and traumatized their teams.  Author Jordan Parker ( march madnessrecently wrote an article stating a mishap where Ohio State University recently responded to a student-athlete’s obnoxious tweet with the following:

We allow our student-athletes the opportunity to express themselves via the social mediums.  What we do ask of them and communicate to them is the importance of being respectful, appropriate and aware that their communications can impact many people. We remind that others may have different views and opinions on what may and may not be appropriate, so always remember not to post or tweet anything that could embarrass themselves, their team, teammates, the university, their family or other groups, organizations or people.”

Seems pretty simple, right?  These “values” aren’t new, they are worldly views of respect.  It’s not rocket science that what you say publically is not going to disappear.  Not even the best lawyers can erase something that is documented publically.  Once it’s said, it’s said, and there is always someone out there waiting for the opportunity to get famous by recognizing someone else’s foolish mistakes.

Since this behavior can be very debilitating to a college team of any sport, there are companies that are looking out for the outspoken student-athletes.  UDiligence, Varsity Monitor, and Jump Forward are just a few of the companies that have products designed to help athletic departments monitor social media feeds, potentially stopping troublesome issues before they occur.

As social media is continues to be a trending topic, the issue isn’t going to go away anytime soon.  This year has been filled with headlines from the college sports world, most, if not all of, which have been documented over every social media site out there.  Specifically, the NCAA and colleges and universities alike cannot hide from the trend. They have to work together to develop a set of rules and regulations that protect and regulate without stepping on student-athlete rights.  It’s strange they haven’t yet, since the NFL, NBA and NHL already have social media policies in place.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you agree that the best discipline will be the consequences of the players’ own actions or do you feel players should not be allowed to vocalize their thoughts, no matter how positive or negative?  Personally, I think freedom of speech allows the impact to be a personal one.  If you think it may harm someone, maybe you should think twice about publicizing your viewpoint, student-athlete or otherwise.  Either way, it’s an exciting time for college sports, so be sure to tune in and enjoy some of the craziness!