Social media policies needed for collegiate athletes

Serious consequences can follow thoughtless posts.

by Destanie Martin-Johnson

The typical college athlete is different from the typical college student. Although all students need to be conscious of their professional reputations once they get into a school, college athletes can suffer more immediate consequences when they make a mistake, particularly on social media.

In recent news, a sophomore baseball player for Bloomsburg University was kicked off his team for a comment he made in a tweet. He made a crude remark about a female little-league player, Mo’ne Davis, who has recently risen to fame. The Bloomsburg player was quick to send out an apologetic tweet.

This is not the first time a college athlete has been punished for posting something irresponsible online. Consequences for this behavior can include revoked scholarships, suspension or even expulsion from the team.

For example, Johnny Manziel, a former college football player now on the Cleveland Browns, got into trouble when he posted pictures of himself partying at a club while he was underage.

As young college students are eager to have fun and be popular on social media, sometimes it’s easy not to think about the consequences of posting something harmful to others. But it’s something that needs to be on every college athlete’s mind. It could ruin your reputation in 140 characters or fewer.

University of Albany men’s basketball coach Will Brown said that “if there’s a lot of questionable stuff they’re posting, we’ll stop recruiting the kid.”

Imagine all of the athletes whose scholarships or offers were taken away just for something they posted online. Many coaches are very careful of how they want their athletes to represent their universities.

Coaches are well aware of the issues with athletes and social media. Some college coaches even ban their team from using Twitter during the season. For example, coaches banned the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team from Twitter during the past four seasons. Last year, the team won the championship with an undefeated record. There were few complaints about the Twitter ban.

Although it seemed to help this particular team succeed, a complete ban of Twitter is not the ultimate answer to the social media problem. What’s the difference if the team can still use Facebook or Instagram? A better solution would be for the coaches to give strict guidelines on what is and isn’t OK to post online and then to monitor the athletes closely.

Coaches are likely to use social media to contact potential recruits or communicate with athletes. This is another reason why banning social media isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Student-athletes — and college students in general — must be careful about their social media use. Employees, just like coaches, will view what you say and do online when they consider hiring you for a position. Their decision on whether you’re fit for a position is something that could change your life inside and outside of school.