Student athletes throughout the country occasionally get in trouble with the NCAA when they use social media websites inappropriately. Coaches have various ways of avoiding these issues, especially with Twitter.
This week, the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky began using monitoring software on athletes’ social media accounts. Anytime a student athlete posts a word that is flagged by the University, or an obscene photo, a member of the student athlete’s coaching staff immediately receives an email alert.
These words are flagged in order to prevent any posts that could tarnish or embarrass the student or university. Words range from names of agents to ‘drunk’ and ‘fight.’
UNC’s athletic department uses a similar system, through the company Varsity Monitor.
The athletic department should work to promote the monitoring software as an educational tool, rather than to use it as a way to censor speech.
The social media monitoring policy is better than banning student athletes from using Twitter because it still protects their freedom of speech.
However, flagged items are almost always taken down. Sylvia Hatchell, the women’s basketball coach, even banned her players from Twitter.
While there is value in giving coaches the ability to monitor tweets with inflammatory words, it is important the student athletes have the final say in what they post online.
Varsity athletes can accumulate thousands of religious Twitter followers. It can be easy to forget how much influence they have. The position these student athletes are in provide a unique circumstance in which they are held to a higher standard than an everyday student when it comes to interacting on social media.
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