Athletes and Social Networking

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Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Myspace are all social networks that athletes use to catch up with friends and family, or vent frustration. And then you have the few athletes that use it as a way to get scholarships. Having said that, social media has become a huge problem for athletes. The professionals, college level and high school level have all had athletes that got in trouble because of what they posted on social networks.

When pro athletes tweet negatively or post disturbing images on any social networking site, ESPN and other places that represent athletes jump all over it. Former NBA player Gilbert Arenas got suspended for using his fingers as pistols in photos and tweeting about an incident that involved him and one of his teammates having a gun fight. As a result the NBA investigated what was going on with him and ultimately suspended him from the league. In cases like these, ESPN and other sports networks bash the athletes and have different articles and segments regarding their actions and social media in general. The NFL, NBA and other professional sports leagues have a rule stating that players can’t tweet 45 minutes before a game, during a game or during media sessions. And if an athlete breaks that rule they get fined by their respective league.

At the college level, social networking can still be detrimental to the athletes’ potential professional career. Every top notch college athlete has coaches, scouts and businesses watching them. For reasons like this, most college athletic programs have rules against the use of social media. Back in 2009, ex-Texas Tech coach Mike Leach banned social media after one of his players went to Twitter to voice his displeasure about something the coach did. It caused a lot of distractions and put the whole organization under the spotlight.

Most programs think that athletes get enough attention as it is and that they shouldn’t be trying to garner more. Even at the high school level there is a restraint on what you can and can’t say. In the past couple of years there have been cases where high school athletes lose their scholarships because of how they conduct themselves on social media. In 2012, high school star Yuri Wright, from Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey N.J. , got expelled from school and lost his scholarship because of sexual and racist tweets. This is a prime example of why high school athletes must pay attention to what they say or do on social media.

Social media has become a part of athletes’ everyday lives. Having said that, all athletes should be aware of all the negative things social networking can do. All it takes is one careless moment where an athlete does or posts something inappropriate online. That one moment could be the deciding factor in whether or not an athletic career continues going or come to an abrupt stop.

Role Models?

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Honestly, athletes shouldn’t be considered role models. They should only be people who you admire and like; not someone you would like to aspire to be. Dating back a few months ago in June, three big name athletes ruined their careers because of the poor choices they made. Many other professional athletes have messed up their careers as well because of their actions. Professional athletes in general have their actions put under a microscope every time they do something. In turn, ESPN and other news networks talk about them, thus making it hard for them to set good examples for future athletes and young adults.

Athletes are held up to high standards because of who they represent and because of the people who follow them. By disregarding the rules and doing whatever they feel like doing shows how selfish and stubborn they can be as individuals. It shows their lack of accountability and displays their immaturity. To be viewed as a good role model, one has to show respect, display maturity and be accountable for the choices they make.
One of the major things athletes have a tendency to do is drugs. New York Yankees player Alex Rodriguez and cyclist Lance Armstrong broke their respective sports’ rules by using performance enhancing drugs (PEDS). Former NBA player Lamar Odom and star NFL linebacker Aldon Smith, for the San Francisco 49ers, had DUI charges and possession of illegal drug charges going against them. Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and Alex Rodriguez was suspended from the MLB. Lamar Odom and Aldon Smith had to check into rehab centers for their addictions and leave their respective teams. Because of their choices, they each had severe consequences.

Drugs aren’t the only thing that’s catching up with professional athletes. Violence and gang affiliations are having negative effects on the players as well. NFL player Aaron Hernandez, Tight End for the New England Patriots, was charged with murder and has been connected to other murders that took place before his last indictment. Because of the choices he made, Hernandez was released and won’t be able to play football again.

Each of the athletes listed above did what they wanted to do, but in the end had to face punishment. To be fair, no one is perfect, and not all athletes are bad role models. Out of the thousands of professional athletes in the world (past and present), there are a few hundred that shouldn’t be mimicked and looked upon as role models. There just comes a point in time where young people have to look past some of the things they see on TV regarding the athletes who’ve made bad choices.