The good and bad of Twitter and athletes
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
A tweet is just a tweet until it’s newsworthy, Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel learned this week. Sending out a photo of yourself partying at a club or with a wad of cash at a casino might seem like no big deal, because it’s technically legal.
But when you’re 20 years old, the face of college football and broadcasting it to 250,000 people, it creates headlines.
“It’s tough knowing that everything you do is watched pretty closely because I’m doing the same stuff I’ve always done,” Manziel said Sunday. “It’s just now people actually care what I do.
“It’s hard to watch some of the stuff that people say to you when you take a picture or you do some stuff or you’re at these games or whatever. It’s tough to sit back, and you can’t really defend yourself.”
Some may argue that Manziel brought the criticism upon himself by voluntarily posting the photos. But he’s not the only student-athlete hearing the chirps of negativity – whether it’s related to casinos, something they’ve said or even a poor performance in a game. And they keep hearing about it, over and over again, thanks to Twitter and the kind of power anonymity and distance give to fans in the social media landscape.
Kentucky men’s basketball players learned that lesson the hard way last month. They knew they’d lost two games in a row, and they were certainly aware that they’d fallen out of the top 25 polls. But college basketball fans kept hounding them about it.
All the negativity prompted freshman Willie Cauley-Stein to delete his Twitter account entirely.
“It happens, I guess, but I don’t want to look at it no more,” Cauley-Stein said after Kentucky lost to Baylor in early December. “Nothing good comes out of it, really, if you really think about it. You can’t say what you want to say on it anyways, because it’s all monitored, so you might as well not even have it.”
Though he has since reactivated his account, the way Cauley-Stein reacted to criticism on Twitter isn’t unusual, according to research published this winter in the International Journal of Sport … [For more on The good and bad of Twitter and college athletes, click here.]