The College Athlete’s Twitter Guide

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We college students love Twitter. It gives us a chance to give 140-character updates throughout the day to the people you’re hanging out, contact someone another way besides texting, calling or writing on their Facebook wall, as well as another medium to upload day-drinking photos to so you can show off just how #college this weekend was.

But for student-athletes, there are more severe consequences and ramifications to what they post on their Twitter accounts.

At the University of Maryland, former hoops star Terrell Stoglin got his hand caught in the cookie jar a bit too often. After sitting out most of the second half against Duke, Stoglin made it a point to retweet every one of his followers who complained about his benching.

And months later, after being suspended from the team for a year, he did the same for the followers begging him to remain in College Park.

Stoglin isn’t alone, though. At Western Kentucky, running back Antonio Andrews was suspended after tweeting critical comments about the team’s fans. In December, Lehigh wideout Ryan Spadola was suspended after retweeting a racial slur. And last month, one North Carolina football player’s tweet sparked an NCAA investigation that resulted in the loss of 15 scholarships.

Spadola’s tweet inspired Towson football head coach Rob Ambrose to monitor his players’ tweets and eventually ban it until he thought his players were properly educated on it. Yes, a Twitter Nazi; no social media for you.

The incident at UNC led a bill proposed in the Maryland Senate that would prohibit schools from playing social media watchdog for their student-athletes.

Whichever party you side with, it begs the question: what should be the protocol when it comes to student-athletes using Twitter?

The First Amendment would dictate student-athletes should be free to tweet as they please. The tricky part is that these athletes represent a team, a program and an educational institution, and they’re tweets are being seen by thousands of people.

Fortunately, I’ve established several principles every college-athlete should follow, whether he’s the starting point guard or the third-string left tackle.

1.     Avoid the obvious no-no’s – nudie photos, controversial viewpoints or anything you wouldn’t want your mother to know.

The quintessential athletes who come to mind when I think of bad role models are Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall.

Johnson tweeted a photo of his junk last winter. I still can’t understand what he could have possibly been thinking or how he could have characterized it in his mind to think it was a smart idea. They call it your private parts for a reason. And I’m pretty sure that even diehard Bills fanatics did not want to get to know you that well.

For Mendenhall it’s a different story, same result. After the death of Osama bin Laden, Mendenhall questioned the truth of what occurred on September 11 on Twitter. Conspiracy theorists certainly do exist, and every person is entitled to whatever opinion they chose to have, but to do so in a public forum about one the most – if not the most – traumatizing event in this country’s history is insensitive and idiotic.

Student-athletes need to learn the moral of these professional athlete’s mistakes. No junk and nothing you wouldn’t say at the dinner table with your family. Think before your tweet.

2.     Don’t tweet on game day.

A lot of players get emotional after games, especially losses. (See Stoglin tweets above).

So to go along with the whole “think before you tweet” theme, avoid tweeting in the heat of the moment. For some, that’s a few hours after the game, which is why it is smart to keep off of Twitter on game days all together.

Think about it – do you really want to insult your coach. Coaches tend to have eyes everywhere; so does the media. Do you ever want to say something to insult your fan base? They’re your fans! And you don’t want to say something derogatory about your opponent. Win or lose, you come off looking like the true loser. If they lost, why be cocky? If you lost, you’re going to earn a reputation for being a sore loser.

3.     You are not LeBron James – do not succumb to angry tweets

Newsflash, LeBron, people in Cleveland do not like you. In fact, outside of South Beach there are a lot of people who do not like you anymore.

But you know what – your decision was already made and you’re still the best player in the NBA. That’s still pretty cool.

So last year, when LeBron’s former team, the Cavaliers, were rewriting the record books for a historically terrible season, LeBron tweeted, “Crazy. Karma is a b****.. Gets you every time. Its not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!”

Of course Cavs owner Dan Gilbert didn’t do himself any favors by ripping LeBron as he fled town, and I’m positive Cavs fans continue to harass “The King” on Twitter on a daily basis. But you’re LeBron-freaking-James, and a four-year-old knows better. Sticks and stones, right?

4.    Twitter is not texting – keep your personal biz personal

Remember that old tradition – getting a girl’s phone number? Believe it or not, it still applies today. If you want to hit a girl up, it is not a good idea to do so online for all your followers to see.

The same rule applies to your buddies. There’s only a handful of things on Twitter that’s more frustrating than when your timeline is blown up by a back-and-forth that has zero meaning to you.

Personal conversations are meant to be held on your phone.

***Side note: some of these pick-up attempts are quite laughable, so yeah, it doesn’t make you appear too much of a ladies’ man, Ryan Gosling wannabe.

5.     Tweet with a purpose

It’s cool that when you’re an athlete at a big-time school, you get a lot of followers. Even recruits nowadays are idolized by their future teams’ fan bases.

But please, when you tweet realize you have an audience. Chad Ochocinco has perfected this art. He can tweet about anything and keep it interesting. I wish I could tell you how he does it, but there is little logic or science when it comes to figuring out Ochocinco.

Ocho gets it, but it doesn’t appear that you do – especially when your last five tweets consist of “sup,” “eggs,” “shower,” “what’s good?” and “class is boring .. hit me up.”

Sam Spiegelman

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