Twisted Tweets: Should Athletes be Allowed to use Twitter?

USA goalkeeper Hope Solo at the 2012 Olympics.

In light of the recent Twitter feud between USA goalkeeper Hope Solo and former USA World Cup winner Brandi Chastain I decided to dig deeper into the growing problem of Athletes using Twitter.  Twitter is a social network that allows users to post (tweet) whatever they want up to 140 characters.  Users can follow their friends, family, celebrities, athletes; whomever is in the Twitter world.  You can comment on anyone’s Twitter and they can either respond or completely ignore the statement.  It is a great way for athletes to connect with their fans and for their fans to connect with their favorite athletes (which normally would be an impossible task).

Given the freedom, Twitter has been the forefront of many controversies, including the Hope Solo feud with Brandi Chastain.  The “Twitter War” began when Hope Solo mentioned Chastain after the 3-0 win against Colombia in a Tweet saying, “Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game @brandichastain.”  Solo’s attack on Chastain was in defense of her comment made about teammate Rachel Buehler for not being able to play the ball out of the back while under pressure.  Solo continued by tweeting, “Lay off commentating about defending and gking until you get more educated @brandichastain, the game has changed from a decade ago.”  Chastain defended her live broadcast comment by tweeting, “As a defender, your responsibilities are to defend. . . win the ball, and then keep possession, and that’s something that [defender] Rachel Buehler actually needs to improve on in this tournament.”

As you can see, the freedom of Twitter can spark issues between anyone including teammates, former teammates, coaches and even higher authorities.  Here is a list of several athletes who have been punished for their Twitter comments:

Voula Papachristou (Greek Triple Jumper)- released from the 2012 Greek Olympic team after making a racist tweet

Cartlon Cole (English Footballer) – fined $27,000 for comment made during the England vs Ghana match

Migual Torres (UFC fighter) – dropped from UFC after making a joke about rape

Larry Johnson (NFL) –  suspended and eventually released by the Kansas City Chiefs for making an anti-gay slur on his Twitter account

Amare Stoudemire (NBA) – fined $50,000 for anti-gay slur in a direct message sent to a fan

Ryan Babel (English Footballer) – fined $16,000 for posting a digitally altered picture of a referee wearing a Manchester United jersey

Yuri Wright (Student) – expelled from high school for posting a series of sexual and racist tweets, Michigan rescinded his scholarship, he would eventually go to Colorado

Antonio Cromartie (NFL) – fined $2,500 from his team for tweeting that they had “nasty food” at its training camp

As you can see there is an ongoing debate on whether athletes should be allowed to Tweet at all.  You can see the benefits it has in being able to connect with fans but there are also the hazards that go along with it.  You would think being a professional athlete you would have a better understanding of what is right and what is wrong.  As an athlete you not only represent yourself; but you represent your teammates, your coaches, your family and the sport in which you play.  By making derogatory comments you could potentially tarnish yourself as well as everyone around you.  As an athlete, you are held to a higher standard, and it’s not just professional athletes, it’s ALL athletes.

So the question is this, how would you as a coach handle this situation?  More and more kids are joining social networks every day and I’m sure some of your players currently have Twitter/Facebook accounts.  Have you educated your players on the potential consequences of saying the wrong thing?  Have you set consequences?  How can we better monitor social media with our players?  Should we allow our players to have social media accounts and is it right for us to tell them no?   

Lastly, since we are Soccer focused, do you think it was right for Hope Solo to make those comments to Brandi Chastain while in the middle of a Major Competition?  Could she have stuck up for her teammate without making it public?   

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Tomo is your prototypical “soccer guy.” A four year starter at Shippensburg University, Tomo owned the defensive midfield with his awesome vision of the game and hard-nosed style of play. An avid Chelsea fan, he’s left scratching his head wondering what owner Roman Abramovich will rotate through Stamford Bridge. Tomo also blogs about Chelsea and the English Premier League on his site TomoTimes.

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