The Good, The Bad, The Ugly for Athletes and Social Media

Written by Lexie on September 23, 2021

Social media is critical for sports but can been costly

Social media for athletes is their direct line of communication to and with their fans and provides no shortage of positive opportunities to capitalize on. However, with their fame and extreme follower counts comes scrutiny and high visibility. Over the years, there has been a constant flow of athletes ending up in the headlines for the posts they wrote years earlier instead of their on field achievements--an issue that can be easily avoided with auditing and cleaning up their social media.

The Blue Checkmark

In today’s world, you would be hard pressed to find a professional athlete that doesn’t have a social media presence. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram enable athletes to connect with their fans, share updates about their career, and express their interests beyond their sport.

It’s now become so common for public figures to have public social media profiles and engage with their fans on these platforms that social media companies use a blue checkmark to indicate the authenticity of their account. This simple icon allows fans to follow their favorite athletes and know that the content being posted is authentically theirs.

As an athlete’s success grows, oftentimes their following does too. For some, this means hundreds of millions of people seeing the content they post just seconds after they hit send. Despite knowing that millions are closely following their accounts, time and time again athletes are forced to apologize for the content they have posted, regardless of when it is from. So while social media has plenty of great benefits, it’s imperative that athletes remember that nobody is immune to being the star of the next viral “social media gone wrong'' headline. Like many other things, social media for athletes has “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

The Good

Twitter, Instagram and TikTok allow athletes to connect with fans, monetize their brand, and share their identity in ways that didn’t exist before social media, often without the oversight of a publicist or agent.

Connecting to Fans:

Social media not only opens a direct line of communication between an athlete and their fans, but also enables them to respond quickly and be the source of information about their own career and personal lives. Instead of organizing a press conference or speaking to a journalist to share their intent to sign with a team, feelings towards a political conversation, or update on an injury, athletes can be the source for their fans. For example, prior to the 2021 NFL season, there was much speculation about where JJ Watt would sign. Instead of a journalist writing the headline or holding a press conference, Watt took to Twitter to share the news with his more than 5 million followers.

Monetizing their brand:

Athletes have always partnered with brands on endorsement deals. However, more recently, social media has become an easy medium for brands and athletes to partner together. With recent changes to NIL, even college athletes are seizing the opportunity. Aside from just partnering with brands, social media has enabled athletes to create their own brands and promote these directly to their fans--owning the content and distribution. For example, Serena Williams uses her Instagram account to share her brand with her 13+ million followers.

Sharing their identity:

Many athletes utilize social media to share their interests and hobbies, as well as causes and issues to increase awareness. College basketball player, Sedona Prince created a TikTok to show obvious gender disparities occuring at the NCAA basketball tournament, resulting in improved conditions the very next day. NBA super star Steph Curry went live on Instagram with former president Barack Obama. For others, they take to social media to promote TV shows and movies they are in, share their musical talents, or other interests such as fashion.

The Bad

Having a social media presence comes with great challenges that cannot be ignored. Although many athletes (and public figures in general) go to great lengths to protect their privacy in the real world, they often forgo this on social media. While they might use an alias to check into a hotel, fly privately, or have an intense security system around their home, many lose their privacy on social media. By athletes sharing their personal lives with their fans, many expose themselves to a higher level of scrutiny, critiques, and judgement with the content and perspectives they share. Fans and individuals feel they are able to pass judgement on public figures once the athlete has chosen to open that virtual door. With the increased scrutiny, many are cautious about what they put on social media. However, too often, they do not do the due diligence to clean up content from the past.

The Ugly

This content from the past, when brought to light, brings out the ugly side of social media for athletes. Too often, athletes make the headlines for content they previously posted that is hurtful, offensive, and goes against the values of the teams they play for and represent. Just in recent years, we’ve seen dozens of athletes across all sports have old posts resurface. Baseball players Josh Hader, Sean Newcomb, and Trea Turner, soccer star Megan Rapinoe and NFL quarterback Josh Allen are just a few examples.

For many of these athletes, the posts that come back to haunt them are in no way a reflection of their character or the type of person they are at the time they are brought to light. However, when they make the headlines, athletes, their agents, and their teams are forced to acknowledge the incident and scramble for an apology that too often seem insincere. Instead of waiting for these lapses in judgement as an adolescent to reappear and lead to demands of “being cancelled,” athletes can and should take the time to review the content they have posted across social media channels, remove harmful content, and present their best selves online.

Avoid “the Ugly” and gain peace of mind with yourself.online

While this task may seem daunting and time consuming, yourself.online helps athletes clean up their social media and remove potentially harmful content. Ultimately, giving them peace of mind to grow their following and social media presence without any concern over historical content reappearing. Our tool quickly analyzes social media profiles, finds photos and posts that may be harmful to an athlete’s online persona, and lets the individual delete and archive with our easy-to-use tool. Individuals can sign up here for our services.

Contact us to learn more about how yourself.online can help your clients

For agents, publicists and coaches, we offer discounted pricing, on-boarding support, and webinars to support your clients with managing their online persona. Email partnerships@yourself.online to learn more.