Social media is a tool that many of us use to share the latest cool video to hit the Internet, or to stay in touch with friends who are spread out across the country or the globe. For journalists it is used to get information out to the masses quickly, and, naturally, mistakes will be made.
But the athlete is the group I am focusing in on in this column. By now, most of you have probably read the tweet that Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson sent out early last week. Johnson sent out a tweet about how if North Korea does bomb the United States, they should focus on the Patriots' hometown of Foxboro. Here is what the tweet read "War is nothing to be played with. I apologize North Korea........but if y'all do bomb 1st... Bomb Foxboro, Mass. Sincerely,#BillsMafia."
The saddest thing is the number of people who retweeted and favorited Johnson's latest flash of arrogance. Let's give the man a break, he does have to play in Buffalo; they're never a contender (ever), and haven't been since the early 1990s. Johnson tried to "mend" things with Patriots fans by sending out a tweet saying "PatsFans i lo...like yall also. ask any1 in my fam. ive said TheBoro is my fav place to play-bkuz you Pats fans are Live! BUT not for long."
Most people who tweeted something as serious as that would not follow it up with another lame punchline. A joking tone can clearly be sensed in both of the tweets by Johnson, but when you are a public figure, there are certain things you do not put out on social media, and that is one of them. Not in today's society, where political correctness is overemphasized. Asking North Korea to bomb Foxboro via social media, even if it was a joke, crosses the line. Social media is a wonderful tool for people to get their message out quickly, but when it is used solely to get a reaction by those with large followings such as athletes, it is sad.
Just like you can put your job at risk if you go out with your buddies and drink a little more than you should, and your boss sees some embarrassing pictures from the night before on your Facebook, I would be surprised if Goodell and the NFL don't fine Johnson for his tasteless tweets. At UNC Charlotte, all athletes were required to take a class on social media. The reasoning behind this is to equip the student-athletes with the knowledge of what is appropriate and inappropriate to put on Facebook. Too many times I have seen underage athletes post pictures of themselves drinking out of those red Solo cups that Toby Keith sings about.
As the sports editor at my student paper, I followed a lot of the student athletes on Twitter. One of the basketball players had a run-in with the then first-year head basketball coach at practice. The player tweeted something loaded with cuss words about the altercation with the coach, and he was suspended from the team indefinitely and ultimately kicked off.
The NBA has a rule in place saying that the locker room is a no-tweet zone for players and coaches. It alleviates any injury info being leaked to the other team and media. High school athletes should be mindful of what they post as well. The players I follow on my Twitter account are fairly mindful about what they tweet. There is no such thing as privacy in today's phone age.
There are the images of Rob Gronkowski, broken ankle and all, dancing with a girl on stage ... can't say I blame the guy -- he's 23. There have been plenty of dumb tweets by athletes, all with grammar that would make their fourth-grade English teacher cringe.
There is a time when you should put down the cellphone. Just like the people who follow their favorite celebrities, Twitter has brought us into the glitz and glam world of our weekend sports stars. Before Twitter, how would I know where to meet Dana White in Las Vegas for free UFC tickets or what Brandon Spikes is wearing to the club and how drunk he got. Parents, be wary of who your kids' sports idols are. Imagine if Twitter was around when Lawrence Taylor or Darryl Strawbery were snorting lines of cocaine while tearing it up in New York. Twitter gives us a look into the lives of our favorite athletes, but it also brings down our respect.
As I was about to wrap up this column, Steelers nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu tweeted a picture of himself holding a picture of cinnamon whiskey while riding with a friend, and he is just now trying to cover it up. Saying a friend of his posted a picture after last year's draft, and he doesn't drink anymore.
Athletes need to be more vigilant of what kind of pictures their friends are tweeting or posting on Facebook.
Their careers hinge on it, just like yours and mine do.
If I was getting paid millions of dollars to play sports, I wouldn't be tweeting pictures of my latest drunken night on the town.
Be careful everyone, the world is watching.