By: Jason Gandhi
Athletes are people too. There is no denying the fact that at the core of every single athlete is a human being. According to Statista in 2016, 78 percent of Americans had a social media profile. Then why do so many people want athletes to stay off social media? Jon Gruden said, “If you’re a young kid out there, put away your Twitter accounts.” when referencing the student athletes who are trying to get drafted. Are they not people too? I asked a few high school students what they use social media for and the responses I got were “To look at and laugh” “To communicate with friends and keep up with friends” “I connect with friends and catch up on the news” said one senior in high school. So with all of that in mind, why are young nineteen year-old players such as D’Angelo Russell and Devin Booker who are beginning to make their mark in the NBA being told that they need to stay off of it?
Social media can have its downfalls. It can be used for good or for bad. For example, Cardale Jones, former Ohio State quarterback now a member of the Buffalo Bills, tweeted out as a freshman in college “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”. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and others can all be used correctly or incorrectly. Why should media analysts such as Jon Gruden be the one who gets to decide whether or not athletes cannot make good judgment? There is a double standard for sure when it comes to athletes versus the common people.
I caught up with six college athletes and asked them about the pressure they feel as an athlete when using social media. Laila Dilts, a soccer player for Lee University commented, “ I do feel I have some restrictions because many college coaches follow me. My coach follows all of my social media” when talking about the limitations athletes have when using social media. She was not the only one to talk about that as Mike Snyder, the shortstop at IPFW, said, “I feel a lot of restrictions! I try to stay away from it all together but it’s hard!”
Another issue that people will bring up is that they need to filter their accounts because they are role models to other people. I asked my six college athletes and the answers were staggered. Christian Munson, a college basketball player for Rollins College, said that he does not feel the need to live up to the standard of being a college athlete and that “As an athlete, I use social media the same as a non athlete”. The counterpoint to that is that being a college athlete is a blessing and the least you can do is watch what you say. John Magers, a pitcher for Manchester University, told me “I’ve always watched what I put on social media before being a college athlete. I have the privilege to be a college athlete and that could be taken away with one move”. Cam Lindley, number one recruit in men’s soccer attending North Carolina this upcoming year told me, “I do not think you (athletes) need to be as active on social (media) when you are an athlete because you should be focused on other things”. That is the counterpoint that some athletes have talked about, but at the same time they still have the choice to be on it if they please. That is the main issue. Some athletes are not given the choice. The fact that athletes are people too is sometimes overlooked. They are extremely blessed to be so great at their craft, but with the same token they are always being watched.
Professional athletes especially are always under the media microscope. Heck Lebron James, Chris Paul, and Dwayne Wade were all on a banana boat hanging out, but one picture got out and suddenly it was as if all the NBA players were going to team up. I guarantee that if I were to go out on a boat with two of my friends’, people would not think twice. The microscope that athletes are put under is excruciating and can sometimes even destroy a career. Look at some of Johnny Manziel’s headlines that pop up. “Johnny Manziel wore Tim Tebow jersey at Texas fraternity party” is a real headline that came out in 2013. College kids go to other school’s fraternity parties all the time, but because it was Johnny Manziel it was suddenly a headline.
In conclusion, whether it is me, you or Ben Simmons social media is not a bad thing, it is the way you can use it that will determine whether it is good or bad. That is all based on the person and their character and only the user can decide what to post and what not to post. Athletes should have the right to be on social media just like common people, because remember they are people. Maybe social media is not right for every athlete, but that is not the media’s decision. The way that they check and use social media is not the media’s business just like we do not have people who monitor our every move making sure that we do not post anything that the “public” would not like. Social media is for anybody that wants it, and athletes are people too.