One post can cost an athlete their dream
Playing sports at the collegiate level is an amazing accomplishment and for the few that graduate to play professionally, it’s the pinnacle of success. After years of late night practices, hours reviewing footage, money spent on coaching and equipment, and time spent away from friends and family….there is a lot at stake to ensure a successful career. Despite all this dedication, more and more athletes are seeing their careers derailed due to unfortunate social media posts.
Is that one tweet or one post worth the cost? Years of sacrifice and effort can disappear in a moment.
Becoming a college or professional athlete does not just happen--it takes time, money, and determination. According to TD Ameritrade, 27% of parents spend $500 or more on youth sports per month. This financial sacrifice being made by parents leads to 1 in 5 delaying retirement or getting second jobs and 19% of “sports” parents spending 20 or more hours a week doing sports related activities.
Despite all of this hard work and investment, a simple social media post, even one from years ago, may get in the way of a player’s achievements.
While coaches and trainers view an athlete's every move on the field or court, their actions off the field are what draw the attention of fans, scouts, and coaches (current and future). When an athletes’ negative social media history is uncovered, the best case situation is a tarnished reputation or financial penalty. However, the worst case scenario can be being cut from a team, losing a scholarship, or forgoing future opportunities.
Receiving a college athletic scholarship is extremely difficult to attain. While over 7.2 million students play high school sports, only 7% of those athletes play sports in college and not all receive scholarships. Just one negative social media post can negate all of the hard work an athlete accomplished to get to the collegiate level.
Scholarships are typically year-long contracts, so while they may not be technically “taken away,” non-renewals can happen for getting into trouble on or off the field - which can be the direct result of inappropriate social media posts being uncovered.
Damaged University Brand
Every student athlete not only represents themselves and their own personal brand, but also the brand and image of the university they play for. The 25 most valuable teams earn a collective average of $1.5 billion in profit annually. A single, negative PR occurrence can impact the university’s brand name and reputation, in addition to financial costs to overcome negative publicity.
For example, Donte DiVincenzo led Villanova to an NCAA Championship and was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 2018. However, the night he won that recognition and tournament, a racist tweet from 2011 on his Twitter account went viral. Every article from ESPN to Yahoo Sports that addressed the tweet displayed the athlete as “Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo,” rather than focusing on the team’s championship.
Diminished Future Opportunities
For those with professional athletic aspirations, teams across all leagues are scanning social media accounts of prospective athletes and scrutinizing every possible player that their team may draft.
Larry Nancy Jr. was drafted in the 1st round of the 2015 NBA draft. As his dream was coming true, an offensive tweet about one of his new teammates, written in 2012, surfaced. Similarly, Jerry Jeudy was drafted in the 1st round of the 2020 NFL draft. As he was drafted, racist, vulgar and offensive tweets he posted in 2012 and 2013 came to light. Although these athletes were drafted, actions from their past tarnished their brand, their reputation, and the perception of coaches, fans, and teammates. For other athletes , social media posts can have costly consequences.
The vast majority of college athletes, however, will not go on to play professional sports but their social media accounts and history are still vitally important. Social media screening has become a main part of job applicant screenings and the hiring process. Old posts can lead to assumptions being made about a person's character and whether they will fit into the company’s culture. To learn more about how companies are using social media for screening applicants -- not just athletes -- you can read more here.
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