There is no shortage of stories regarding athletes and social media. Many fans follow their favorite athletes (college and professional). Approximately 19% of internet users in the United States are sports fans. (Phua 109) The surge of popularity of social media has caused many popular college and professional athletes to create accounts. For the most part, the media, educational institutions, and other professional organizations struggle with how to handle the issues that arise when it comes to athletes and their social media accounts.
The up-take in fans following college athletes has prompted several schools, including two in Kentucky, to monitor their student-athlete’s social media activity. The Courier Journal has stated that athletes at the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky must agree to have their accounts monitored as a condition to playing sports. (News Bank – Access World News)
More and more schools have started using software such as Centrix to find and help discourage social media posts that could potentially damage the school’s reputation. Centrix creates a database of words that are flagged when student athletes post on social media, such as “robbery”, “porn” and even “Sam Adams”. (News Bank Access – World News)
This heavy monitoring has limited college athlete’s social media posts, mainly because they do not want to get in trouble. If a college athlete wants to play now plans on going pro in the future, they don’t want any bad press. This means they are less likely to say anything controversial to jeopardize playing time or money. After following many college athletes on twitter, the majority of their tweet about their day-to-day activities, mostly pertaining to the sport that they play or are watching, Overall, many college athletes play it safe when they post due to the consequences they could pay.
I have classified college athlete’s tweets into 3 categories:
For professional athletes, their accounts aren’t monitored as strictly as college athletes, but they are penalized monetarily when they break the rules depending on their organization. Since the boom of social media is relatively new, new issues come up regularly such as in-game tweeting (Chad Ochocinco and Andy Roddick). Pro athletes also look at this medium to interact with their fans. Pro athletes answer questions, talk about their injuries, and playoff appearances all though social media.
The impact of professional athletes on social media has gone as far as having some think that fans will follow the athlete’s account instead of the actual broadcast. There have been agreements with certain organizations that prevent athletes using social media to talk about their game or even 90 minutes before and after their game. This also includes no talk of weather or court conditions. But sometimes, the popularity, or social capital (Phua 111) that these athletes receive due to their tweets is worth more than the fine they would have to pay. (News Bank – Access World News).
While athletes joke around, talk about their games and interact with fans, many professional athletes have money they can easily give up when fined because of their partnerships and sponsorships, and are used as a vehicle for promoting it.
Due to all of these scenarios, I have classified professional athlete’s posts into three categories.
Promotion and Sponsorship
About Their Sport/Each Other
Overall, athletes strive to make an online identity just like anybody else, they just happen to be monitored more closely. This results in posts that can be very mundane and boring; posts that come across offensive and cause major uproar among fans and press, to posts that are simply promoting a brand or partnership. There is a never-ending conversation regarding athletes and social media. This dynamic topic is sure to bring up new and uncharted scenarios, one post or tweet at a time.