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Professional Athletes and Social Media: Are Players Crossing The Line?


Social media in today’s society has a vast reach that at times serves as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be used to spread positivity about a player and the associations they represent, On the other hand it can display just how much dysfunction exists within sports organizations. The power is in the hands of the user, but are some athletes taking it too far?

 

Last week Rajon Rondo aired out some of the Chicago Bulls’ dirty laundry in an Instagram post to his 600,000 plus followers. The post, currently sitting with 111,000 likes, shows himself and his former teammates Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, undoubtedly from the year the Boston Celtics won the championship in 2008. In the caption, Rondo reminisced on the times when the veteran players took their young and upcoming teammates under their wing and showed them the correct way to conduct themselves on and off the court. In the same post he also expressed his distaste with certain teammates calling out other teammates publicly in the media, and questioned the team’s leadership.

 

This post seemed to be a direct response to teammates Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler’s post-game comments in which they called out their teammates’ effort and commitment. The comments weren’t particularly inflammatory, but Rondo obviously thought these concerns should have been addressed behind closed doors directly with the team. As a result, all of the team’s fans—many of whom are already somewhat on edge after the Bulls’ recent struggles—witnessed first-hand just how disjointed the situation in Chicago is becoming. The comments from fans underneath Rondo’s post range from those that applaud his stance, to others calling him out, accusing him of being so upset because he knows his teammates are talking about him when they mention lack of effort and commitment. While Rondo certainly is right that team business should be handled in-house, it was lost on him that his response was also done publicly and not directly with the members of the team he took issue with, and only served to exacerbate an already negative situation.

 

There was also the highly publicized commotion that resulted when Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers decided that he would live stream, for nearly 20 minutes, the post-game celebration of his team after their Divisional Round win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Not only did this video encroach upon the sanctity and brotherhood that he and his teammates share in the locker room, but it was also a direct violation of the NFL’s social media policy. The policy states that players are restricted from posting on social media starting an hour and a half before the game, all the way through until all post-game press and media has been completed. His head coach and a handful of his teammates weren’t thrilled about the video. and ultimately Brown single-handedly added an unnecessary and completely avoidable distraction to his team as they began preparation for the biggest game of their season, the AFC Championship Game, which they went on to lose to the New England Patriots 36-17.

 

With the abrasive usage of some athletes on their social media accounts, it is likely that their respective leagues and team organizations will continue to adjust the policies that could restrict their usage in the future, but athlete’s usage of social media isn’t all bad. In fact, there are quite a few players across all leagues that have used these platforms to consistently spread gratitude and words of encouragement to their followers. Social media can be an effective tool that allows players to chat with their fans in an unprecedently direct manner, and to show that they are human just like everyone else, which can easily be forgotten. They can use social media to express their feelings on political or social matters, or to document their involvement with their community. Players will have to continue to exercise caution and good taste when using their social media platforms in order to avoid fines and negative press, and more importantly to protect the trust that exists between themselves and their teammates. The best thing about social media is that players can craft their own narrative, and when just a little bit of restraint and thought are put into their messages, players will be able to tap into a positivity that their fans will be able to appreciate, creating more constructive reflections upon themselves and their teams.

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