Student athletes vs. social media policies

Three, two, one, say cheese! What if every time a picture is snapped, the thought of whether coaches or the institution would allow that picture on social media?

This is a new dilemma in play for a number of university and college teams around the country. Some student athletes learn early that they cannot post certain pictures or use “language you wouldn’t use around your grandma,” or they may face penalties such as being removed from their athletic program.

Social media is a way for young people to stay connected. Social networks such as Twitter and Instagram are most common on campuses. But big names such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Oregon State University, along with a handful of others, have imposed strict rules governing social media use. But “posting police” are not just making their presence known at big schools; student athletes at smaller schools like Queens University of Charlotte are also under the gun.

Athletic teams at Queens have some of the same expectations when dealing with social media. While participating in a sport, under their coaches’ discretion, students have certain rules they are expected to follow. Not every team is being monitored, but others have eyes on them quite heavily.

Men’s lacrosse senior Kenneth Stryker, says that the coaches make it very clear what the social media restrictions are for the lacrosse team. One rule they are very strict on, is to not post anything to social media that contains alcohol, period.

Stryker continued by explaining the men’s lacrosse teams basic philosophy, “just don’t be an idiot,” one you would believe would be pretty self-explanatory. It is important to make sure that team and institution representation is always considered. The team as a whole did not have to sign anything dealing with these restrictions, but each player understands that certain things must not be seen within their personal pages.

Nkosi Ali, a senior on the men’s basketball team, also pointed out that anything dealing with social media is monitored by their coaches. Just like the lacrosse team, men’s basketball also abides by their own motto: “respect the school and respect your team.”  Anything outside of that is deemed out of line and players can get into a heap of trouble.

“They watch our Twitter, our Instagrams and even our Snapchats,” said Ali.

Some athletic teams do not impose such strict social media policies. Junior, Erin Brundage said that the women’s basketball team is much more laid back than other sports or universities.

“We have to make sure that any of our social media is private,” stated Brundage.

As long as they limit who can see what they post on social media, they do not feel the need to impose many more restrictions. However, they do expect that their players have the basic knowledge to know how to conduct themselves on social media.

Many colleges and universities began to regulate what student athletes post on social media after a handful of professional athletes ruined their own reputations, as well as tainted their teams reputations, after making poor choices about media network posts.

Chad Ochocinco, a star football player for the Montreal Alouettes, is one of the most renowned cases for destroying his athletic career due to social media. Ochocinco was criticized last fall for posting an in-game tweet in which he spoke indiscriminately about how hard he was being hit during a preseason game. Last year the NFL had instilled clear rules prohibiting the use of Twitter and other social media during games. They also deemed his word selection as inappropriate.

The biggest issue faced as a result of having student athlete’s social media pages monitored is that it is can be deemed as a violation of their Constitutional First Amendment rights, which includes the protection of freedom or speech and press. As United States Citizens, student athletes should be able to post what they want, whenever they want.

This argument was one that had been greatly debated at UNC-Chapel Hill who recently revised their Social Networking Policy for student athletes. The new policy states that although the UNC Department of Athletics recognizes and supports its student athletes rights to freedom of speech and press, playing and competing for UNC-Chapel Hill is a privilege, not a right. When you sign with a specific team, you no longer are just representing yourself, but also the program as well as the institution.

Athletes are now seen as representatives of the entire University as a whole. Freedom of expression is very important, but making sure the posts portray a positive image so that the individual student athlete, as well as the program, can be seen as a potential role model for other students interested in the University.

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.