I-A College Football
By Scott Haynes, FBS Senior Editor - Archive - Email
Social media and today's athlete
Jimbo Fisher has deemed Twitter off limits for the immediate future.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I am a father of two young men who are passionate in everything they do, including their rants and musings on Facebook and Twitter.

There isn't a day that goes by when I am not warning them of the consequences that could come from an ill-advised tweet or status update.

The worldwide phenomenon that is Twitter and the recent rash of irresponsible tweets from athletes all over the world should be reason for concern. With social media outlets becoming addictive for athletes young and old, it is more and more clear that responsible use of such accounts should be part of any training regimen.

The greatest aspect of Twitter is its freedom. Anyone can say anything they want as long as they can do so in 140 characters or less. However, the bad thing about Twitter is that same freedom. Anyone can say anything they want, regardless of how inappropriate it may be.

Just because you have the power to say anything you want doesn't mean you always should.

It happens all the time, a star athlete makes a decision to comment on a topic, or life experience and send it out over the web, only to have his or her personal thoughts and feelings dissected by the masses.

Stupidity does not discriminate and athletes from all over the world have spewed out some of the vilest things imaginable.

It has become an almost daily occurrence. Pittsburgh Steeler Rashard Mendenhall's tweets last year regarding Osama bin Laden, 9/11 and slavery, and Atlanta Falcon Roddy White's more recent tweets about Penn State and Joe Paterno are just a couple of examples of things that probably shouldn't have found their way to the web.

Olympic athletes have joined the group in record numbers this year. Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachristou never got to realize her Olympic dream, as she was sent home after disguising racism as a poorly planned joke via Twitter. Switzerland defender Michel Morganella was expelled from the Olympics as well following a racist insult tweeted about the South Koreans.

These are just the ones that have gained worldwide notoriety.

There also have been scores of athletes who have simply put the proverbial foot in their mouth, making spur of the moment comments, without the ability to see or even care about an impending backlash.

The more popular the athlete, the more people are following and it only takes one comment to send the Twittersphere into a frenzy.

Well, one group this may not be a problem for is the 2012 Florida State football team. The Seminoles may be one of the best teams in the country, but you won't hear that from the players via Twitter, as head coach Jimbo Fisher has deemed it off limits for the immediate future.

It comes following defensive back Tyler Hunter's ridiculous comments following a run-in with police, but in today's climate of instant blowback and the life that comments like his can take, it probably should be a policy for most athletes, collegiate and professional alike, at least until proper education of the use of social media is provided.

Hunter was pulled over by police for making a turn on red and apparently wearing his seatbelt the wrong way, prompting him to take to Twitter and voice his displeasure with law enforcement, including quoting rap lyrics that contained racist remarks and called for people to "kill cops."

The Fisher ban went into effect shortly thereafter and at the ACC's annual media event, Fisher suggested the Twitter embargo may last all season.

It certainly isn't unreasonable to side with Fisher on this topic. Being part of an organization comes with rules regarding proper etiquette. A student athlete represents not only his team, but the university for which he plays. Most importantly, they represent themselves.

You never know who is watching, or in this case, reading your tweets.

There are obvious things one can do to use social media responsibly. Things like only posting positive comments and never posting photos that could be embarrassing are easy ways to stay out of trouble on sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Never update your social media page in the heat of the moment. In a day and age when smart phones can turn the most mild-mannered person into a raving lunatic, taking caution and cooling down before posting usually proves to be a better course of action.

I am constantly reminded of a saying a friend of mine used to tell his sons upon leaving their home, "Don't embarrass the organization." It was always the last thing he would say to them and probably the thing they remembered the most when away from home.

It is something that should be drilled into the modern day athlete, whether they represent a team, a university or a country.

Most importantly, it is an edict regarding personal responsibility.

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