Twitter, Facebook and Superstar Athletes

By Jerid Gunter

Not only do they perform and entertain on their respective playing fields, but professional and high-profile collegiate athletes are also entertaining online. Yes, multi-million dollar athletes are frequenting social media sites like Twitter and Facebook just like you and I, if not more frequently. With every 140 characters, they share to the world what’s going on in their own world and their fans are entertained yet again. While this is a great way for athletes to connect with their fans, it can also be another trap door for players to fall into trouble.

It doesn’t take long for word to spread when it’s posted on the Internet, especially when you’re a big name athlete. Former Kansas City Chiefs running back, Larry Johnson, knows this from personal experience. Mid-way through the 2009 NFL season, Johnson posted a negative comment on Twitter, laced with derogatory language and slamming his new head coach. Piled on top of the already mounting off-field trouble, it didn’t take long for Johnson to find himself suspended by the league and later cut from the Chiefs roster.

At the University of Kansas, basketball player Tyshawn Taylor has found himself in trouble on a couple of occasions due to questionable comments he posted on Facebook. In the fall of 2009, Taylor involved himself in the widely publicized campus fight that took place between the Jayhawks football and basketball teams and proceeded to inform everyone on Facebook that he dislocated his thumb because he punched someone. More recently, Taylor posted a comment on Facebook alluding to the idea that he may transfer to another school because of his limited playing time at Kansas. Taylor no longer has his Facebook account.

While there are disaster stories of athletes and social media, there are certainly some who know how to use it to their benefit. Cincinnati Bengals’ star wide receiver, Chad Ochocinco, has jumped into the world of social media head first and is making quite a splash. What started as a Twitter account has turned into what Ochocinco now calls OCNN: Ochocinco News Network. In addition to replying to followers’ tweets and posting his own personal tweets, Ochocinco is pursuing a side job of being a part of the media via Twitter and other mediums. This past week, Ochocinco has been in Miami covering Super Bowl XLIV with a team of three other current NFL players for OCNN. In addition, Ochocinco and OCNN have gone as far as having sponsorships from Motorola Blur and Degree for Men featured on the Twitter page. It looks like Twitter has created an additional career path for Ochocinco.

Social media is a wonderful way to stay connected with friends, family, fans, clients and customers. However, it’s critical that one is careful on what they post for the cyberworld to see, especially for those in the world’s spotlight. For everyone else, what we post can certainly be under scrutiny also. For those who are in search of careers or who have careers working with or in front of the public, employers and potential employers are watching. One questionable post and we may be in the same boat Johnson found himself in with (or without) the Chiefs.