Athletic social media policies are more beneficial than bans

Steve Spurrier, head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks football team, banned Twitter until the football season ends in January 2012. The ban was caused by inappropriate and vulgar tweets by USC players.

As a youngster involved in sports, I looked up to athletes as a source of inspiration. As an adult, social media not only allows me to idolize them but also follow them during their everyday lives. However, with great power comes great responsibility, so it’s no wonder that athletic organization leaders are starting to create social media policies to ensure that athletes are tweeting appropriately.

Last month, Steve Spurrier, head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks football program, banned Twitter during the college football season, which ends in January 2012. An article on stated that Spurrier’s decision stemmed from players posting questionable content on Twitter.

Spurrier was quoted in that same article: “Well, we have some dumb, immature players that put crap on their Twitter, and we don’t need that. So the best thing to do is just ban it.”

Spurrier’s concerns are well warranted. Twitter allows us to say whatever is on our mind, and, in the blink of an eye, it is forever engrained in technology for millions to see. Athletes are not only judged by how they perform, but also what they do and say off the field. However, should Spurrier be allowed to ban Twitter?

Earlier this month, the National Hockey League launched a new social media policy for players. According to an ESPN article, players are not allowed to tweet before games, and they can only tweet after post-game media obligations. Players are also warned that if they tweet anything that would be harmful to the NHL or the game of hockey, they will be disciplined.

The NHL is implementing a social media policy that many professional businesses are beginning to put into effect. Athletic leagues and teams are businesses and players are employees, so a social media policy makes perfect sense within the realm of sports public relations. Players are allowed to tweet and stay connected with their fans, but they are also representing their organization in an acceptable and appropriate manner. The NHL commissioners allow players to continue tweeting but with restrictions on the content.

Instead of banning Twitter, Spurrier should have created a basic social media policy with basic guidelines for what players could tweet while still allowing them to be a part of social media. Social media policies should include a clear list of “don’ts,” so players know exactly what they can and cannot say. The policy should include disciplinary action. A ban could cause backlash while a policy compromises.

Social media is an important way for players to connect with fans. A concern for coaches, owners and general managers is how Twitter and social media distract players from their jobs, which is why Spurrier enforced a ban. However, players serve as ambassadors, spokespeople, role models and heroes to fans. Twitter humanizes athletes by allowing us to engage in their lives outside of athletics. By banning social media, Spurrier is creating unrealistic regulations that could be fixed by a policy. Organization leaders should consider creating policies before taking extremes such as banning Twitter.


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2 responses to “Athletic social media policies are more beneficial than bans”

  1. katherine allred says :

    I never think banning social media access is a solution. Yes, I think social media guidelines are important but it can only take you so far. But I think USC’s football coach’s comments are a little harsh. These are adults and are fully capable of conducting themselves online. But he has a point, he should have made some guidelines first and if the problem still existed, then he could have restricted social media access. He should have emphasized how these players can be a good influence on the kids and even some adults that view them as role models. Great post, Rachel.

    • Rachel Starr says :

      Thanks Katherine!
      Maybe in the future, he’ll try to develop a social media policy. Policies have been very effective for teams. I’ve only ever seen them for professional teams and leagues, so maybe college athletics haven’t reached that point yet.

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