Athletes continue to find that their old tweets can haunt them
by Andy Hilton, recruit757
Sports and social media continue to be a volatile mix.
The headlines make it clear. No matter the sport and no matter the level, athletes are finding themselves apologizing for past behavior and opinions, and some are even losing opportunities because social media posts seemingly live forever.
Major League Baseball is seeing it. Atlanta Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb threw a one-hitter on Sunday, then had to answer questions from the press about racist and homophobic tweets that were dredged up from his teenage years. Newcomb is now 25 and in the second year of his MLB career. Search his name on the internet and the first things to pop up are “Sean Newcomb of Atlanta Braves ‘regrets’ offensive tweets”, “Offensive tweets remind Major Leaguers that the past is never past”, and “Sean Newcomb apologizes to Atlanta Braves teammates for offensive tweets”.
Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner and Milwaukee Brewers Pitcher Josh Hader have also been under the microscope this month for the same reason.
Prospective college athletes have the same things to fear with perhaps more at stake. Professional athletes get scrutinized and the scrutiny adds pressure to a job that’s already stressful. At least they’ve established themselves in a career.
High school athletes pursuing college scholarships that could lead to a professional career are not only closer chronologically to a potential offense, but they also have the risk of seeing their hard work dissolve before there’s ever been a pay off.
A recent Chicago Tribune article by Shannon Ryan shared information culled from interviews with several college coaches regarding the recruiting process. To a man, the coaches interviewed expressed a need for hiring a private investigator for all the background checking they do before extending a scholarship offer and bringing an athlete into their program.
Graduate assistants, interns and even assistant coaches spend their time scouring the social media accounts of prospective athletes.
Draft night in the NFL and in the NBA has become an event, not only for the doors of opportunity opening for newly minted professional athletes, but also for the scandal inducing drama unearthed by people who want to stir the pot by exposing the missteps of athletes who are on the cusp of their professional career.
We’ve shared tweet upon tweet where anonymous student-athletes have been dropped as prospects for their social media mistakes. College coaches don’t hesitate to share that information as a cautionary tale so that others won’t make the same mistake.
Poor judgment on social media is often seen as an indicator that deeper problems reside under the surface for an athlete. Posting violent videos may be an indication that domestic abuse is on the horizon. Misogynistic attitudes could be interpreted as a forewarning of sexual assault or rape. You don’t have to be guilty of a crime to have opportunities taken away. In this day and age of multi-million dollar coaches salaries and big money athletic programs, no college coach is going to want to bring in an athlete that could cost the coach his job and sully the reputation of the university.
The Chicago Tribune article quoted Nebraska head coach Scott Frost: “I’ll tell you this right now – if there’s anything negative about women, if there’s anything racial or about sexuality, if there’s anything about guns or anything like that, we’re just not going to recruit you, period.”
No matter how special a prospect is athletically, job security overrides a fear of missing out. There are tens of thousands of student-athletes hunting college scholarships. The average Division I football program has no more than roughly 25 scholarships to offer in a given year. The odds are against the prospect already. There’s no sense in damaging your chances even further by sharing something on social media that should be left alone.
Before you post on social media, think about what you’re posting. Would your mom approve? Would your grandmother approve? It only takes one stupid move to jeopardize your future. Treat your social media accounts as an extension of your brand. As a student-athlete in line for college scholarships, you are marketing yourself.
– Andy Hilton