My mom always said if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.
When it comes to Twitter and his athletes, Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach agrees. The outspoken law-degree holding, pirate-loving coach was the latest to issue a ban on his athletes using the popular social networking site after two prominent players ‘violated’ team rules. "Anybody that wants to play for us doesn't have a Twitter page," said Leach during a recent Big 12 teleconference.
Following Tech's loss at Houston, All-American offensive lineman Brandon Carter wrote: “This is not how I saw our season. I just cried like am [sic] idiot. I want us to be so good my last year and I feel like I'm letting everyone down." Leach suspended his star lineman indefinitely, but wouldn't indicate whether it was a result of his disgruntled tweets.
Linebacker Marlon Williams’ Twitter page was also removed, along with Carter’s, after his frustration with Leach was shown through a tweet: "Wondering why I'm still in this meeting room when the head coach can't even be on time to his own meeting."
Williams also expressed his disappointment with the Red Raiders 2-2 start. "I can't believe what happened. Man my senior year isn't going anything like what I busted my [butt] for....New week now."
This is just the latest issue facing athletes and the use of Twitter.
So the question is: Should college athletes be allowed to use Twitter to communicate with fans?
The answer isn’t clear-cut. Just as the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility,” Twitter is a very powerful tool that should be used very wisely and with great caution, especially when it comes to athletes.
Although some might not admit it, athletes have a responsibility to their fans and their team to show respect on and off the field. Twitter is an extension of this. Just as a player would refrain from talking bad about their team or coach to the media, they should refrain from doing so on Twitter for all their followers and fans to see.
While I don’t disagree with Leach’s ban of Twitter-ing by his athletes, I do feel as though college athletes should be afforded the rights to use Twitter similar to professionals. The journalist in me screams, “Freedom of Speech!” while the consultant says, “Be positive and keep your negative thoughts to yourself.”
Because athletes are associated with a team, unlike us “regular” people who are associated with only ourselves, athletes should keep in mind that their personal thoughts and comments could sometimes affect the public’s view of the team.
So, the power lies with those players to make the right decisions. In the case of Carter and Williams, their decisions were not carried out in a respectful manner, and probably were not the right way to handle the situation. Twitter can be a great forum to communicate with fans, but in order to keep the peace and out of respect for their respective programs and coaches, players should not call out or place the blame on any particular person within the organization, no matter what has occurred.
These same rules should be applied to professional athletes, and are actually beginning to be, as seen with New York Jets’ David Clowney. After tweeting his disappointment with the lack of playing time he had against the New England Patriots, coach Rex Ryan benched the wide receiver for the game against the Tennessee Titans.
As Twitter and other social networking sites continue to grow in popularity, more athletes will take advantage of their power. Regardless if you are a college or professional athlete, your use of Twitter is a personal decision. However, for the sake of the team and out of respect for your organization, it may be wise to use it for positive reinforcement rather than negative commentary.
So next time you feel like tweeting about how your season has gone down the drain, think twice, and then post something nice.