I watched a curious phenomenon play out on Twitter last Friday.
Garden City Community College cornerback Riyahd Jones had announced he would make his choice of transfer school on his Twitter account around noon Friday. He had offers from such institutions as Ole Miss, Indiana, Kansas State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech. He ended up choosing Tennessee.
Jones, however, drug his announcement out over twenty minutes of tweets, treating his twitter feed as if it were an actual press conference.
Around the time he paused to take a drink of water, helpfully writing out “@CoolJones_ *drinks water,” I fought the urge to roll my eyes.
This kid is going to give his coaches a migraine.
Yes, Jones’ antics on Twitter last week were amusing and almost satirical of the media circus such announcements often become.
More often, though, student-athletes find themselves in serious trouble when it comes to their social media activities, posting thoughts brought forth in the heat of a crushing loss or bad practice without first thinking about the ramifications of their words. In that way, they are much like any other high school or college kid.
Unfortunately for athletes, everything they say or do is under a much more intense microscope then their peers.
Some schools have responded to the lack of forethought shown by athletes by banning them from Twitter for the duration of their time in that respective school’s program. Notable among these programs are Florida State, South Carolina, Nebraska and Washington State.
An incident with Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones on Oct. 5 brought a lot of unneeded national attention to a Buckeye program struggling to regain it’s integrity under Urban Meyer.
Jones tweeted, “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”
Grammar issues aside, that one tweet, though quickly deleted, probably had everyone within the Ohio State athletic department banging their heads against a brick wall, considering they already faced sanctions from the NCAA.
Fans don’t help the situation any. Riyhad Jones was flamed by angry K-State fans after he chose Tennessee over the Wildcats, calling him names I can’t print here. To his credit, Jones handled the situation with class, but unfortunately, not all of his peers are able to do so. It’s an unfortunate by-product of having unprecedented access to sports figures and is one that needs a light shone on.
I’m not calling for all athletic programs to ban athletes from social media. If done right, it is a fantastic bridge between the athletes and the fans. However, coaches and athletic directors should consider classes on how to handle the potential landmines of social media responsibly.
After all, Facebook and Twitter aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
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