As you take a look at these, you might think “oh well, it all just comes down to common sense.” Unfortunately, I honestly think that common sense is really not that common. Even with all the efforts from NCAA, conferences, and schools to educate their student-athletes on using social media, we still see someone getting in trouble every now and then.
When I was in college, we used to have a mandatory meeting once a year about Social Media and it was absolutely miserable to sit through those. You would think that with all those meetings we would have learned the lesson, but we actually managed to get in trouble once. I get it – there’s a lot of cool stuff that happens in college and you wanna share that with the world. But, being honest here, it’s not really worth it. So how do you know what you can post and what you can’t?
This day and age there’s a lot of discussion about freedom of speech and what one is actually allowed to say or not say. I think trying to figure out the limits is way beyond the scope of this website. The important thing I wanted to cover here is that, as student-athletes, we learn that our actions and words will have an effect in a lot more people than just ourselves. We are suddenly representing teammates, coaches, athletic departments, former players, fans, parents, and the list goes on. Once an athlete truly understands the weight of that, he or she will think twice before posting anything on social media. Athletes that understand that are considered more mature and responsible. It’s a great lesson for life if you ask me.
Social media is a great resource to build a personal brand and differentiate oneself, but one needs to know what topics to write about. Most importantly, one needs to know what NOT to write about. While some schools are stricter than others, these are some topics that you should definitely not tweet about (or post in any other social media):
No brainer here. You always want to be careful when it comes to your drinking, and maybe even more careful about your posting about drinking. You might have had a crazy Halloween or Cinco de Mayo party, but you should still keep any photos and stories off social media. If you’re under 21, you need to be even more careful. Also, if your school has a dry-campus policy (no alcohol allowed), they may be a little stricter about a picture of you chugging a bottle of vodka in your dorm.
On a side note, if you’re an international student and the drinking age in your home country is 18, that doesn’t mean you’re legally allowed to drink in the U.S. I had a friend who got in trouble for drinking on campus, and tried to get away with it by saying that he was legally allowed to drink where he was from. Needless to say, it didn’t work and he got on probation.
Same thing as alcohol: you want to be careful with what you do, and even more with what you post. Make sure your photos don’t have a hidden bong behind the coffee table. Also it’s probably safe to say that you should stay away from sharing memes related to drugs – your coaches will eventually get the hints. And even if weed is legal where your school is located and you might me using it for “medical” purposes, posting anything about it will definitely raise a yellow flag for coaches.
As a rule of thumb, you want to stay away from posting photos or stories about parties. Chances are that coaches will eventually see your posts, and that really doesn’t send a great message. If you’re receiving scholarship, you should see the school as your employer and therefore act accordingly. Staying away from party posts will show professionalism and will pay off in the long-run.
4) Bashing On Other Teams
One of the main recommendations that an athlete will hear in regards to social media is to not post anything right after a win or a loss. This is extremely helpful as we tend to make stupid decisions when we are acting emotionally. No matter how the other team cheated or how rude they were during the game, it is NEVER a good idea to write about your feelings towards other teams in social media. Not only it can get you in trouble, but it will also portray your whole team in a pretty bad light.
5) Bashing On Your Own Team
It can be very hard to deal with your anger towards another team, but it can be even HARDER when someone in your own team is who you are mad at. Sometimes you won’t get enough playing time, sometimes your teammate will make a bad decision in that last minute, and sometimes your coach might be rude to you for no reason. It can be a pretty tough situation, as you feel like you can’t express your feelings to anyone. So, you might look towards social media as an outlet, feeling as you are safe behind your computer’s screen. That is probably THE WORST decision you can make. Not only it will most likely get you in trouble, but it will also create a lot of unnecessary drama for your team, and it will most likely affect how your team performs.
6) Posting During Class
Now, I’m not entirely sure how this works for every school, but I’ll say this was actually pretty important at mine. I know how tempting it is to use your phone in class. I did it ALL THE TIME. I used to always sit in the back of the room so my professors wouldn’t have a direct line of sight of my phone so I wouldn’t get in trouble. Each professor will have a different policy towards usage of electronics in class, with some being a lot stricter than others. So, for one thing, I would recommend not posting anything in class as it will reduce the likelihood of you getting in trouble with individual professors. However, it will also help
I’ve seen a case in my school where an athlete posted something on social media, and his coach saw that post and knew he was in class at the moment. The athlete was already in limbo because of his bad grades, so let’s just say that this episode didn’t help his case.
7) Inappropriate Content
This category is probably the one where you need to use common sense the most. There isn’t necessarily a strict line that cannot be crossed, but it is going to depend a lot on how strict the university is. Stricter schools will be pretty harsh in regards to posting or sharing content with offensive language, sexually explicit content, or anything along those lines. More tolerant schools, on the other hand, might decide to turn a blind eye to such posts. Speaking from my own experience, it is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to this.
During the fall of my junior year, one of my teammates posted a picture of us with our Halloween costumes. We were all shirtless, and my teammate wrote a slightly inappropriate message on his own chest. About 30 minutes after he posted the photo on Instagram, we were contacted by the social media manager in our athletic department. He told us we had to take the photo down and he refrained us from publishing it again in the future, claiming it was against our university’s policies.
This is not restricted to student athletes, as any student that publishes racist posts will most likely get suspended or expelled from an university. While it is hard to see someone making flat-out racist comments, it is important to know that sharing a meme with racist tendencies is just as wrong. Making jokes or sharing radical views on immigration policies might still be seen as racist by your school. And punishments to racism are usually not taken lightly.
In 2018, Natalia Martinez, a Georgia State University freshman was suspended from the soccer team and eventually withdrew from the university after she posted a photo with a racial slur. She posted the photo on Finsta, which is supposed to be a “secret” version of Instagram by only sharing posts with close friends. Nonetheless, school officials still became aware of the post and punished the student. Once again, just stay away from it.
The next two categories go hand in hand. While we are all absolutely entitled to follow any religion we chose, it is somewhat of a sensitive topic. While posting nice things about your religion might actually help you get into some schools (in case you are targeting religious schools), it might do you harm in most cases. Unfortunately, coaches might have different views and beliefs from yours, and they might not be 100% unbiased when it comes to recruiting.
This seems to be one of the most dangerous topics nowadays.
This is definitely a no go. Regardless of what your worldviews are, you should never make offensive posts when it comes to gender and sexuality. Once again, you are representing your school, and that same school is trying to make everyone feel welcome. This will not necessarily get you in trouble with a coach or teammates, but it will most likely get you in trouble with your school – with the worst case actually being expulsion.
A real-life example happened in 2018, where Bronson Harmon, an incoming wrestling athlete at Cal Poly, had videos of him using a gay slur at a political rally posted in social media. Harmon had signed a letter of intent in
12) Negative Posts
It would be extremely hard to cover all the topics you should stay away from while you’re a student-athlete. So, as a general rule, you should stay away from posting anything that is negative or that might go against people who have different worldviews than you. You should aim to become the best version of yourself in college, and one of the best characteristics you can develop as a student-athlete is becoming responsible and taking ownership of your actions. If you start by being mindful of the things you post in social media, people will start seeing you as a more mature and professional person, and this will benefit you when you start looking for jobs.
Being a college athlete is not easy. You have the same responsibilities as other students, but you also have pretty much a full-time job as an athlete. You have a lot of responsibilities, and you can’t even be who you are on social media. A lot of times, you’ll feel like you have too much to handle and it might be easier to just give up. But, in the end, I guarantee you that these 4 years will teach you valuable lessons for life and will pay off in the long run.