As of March 2013, 72% of student athletes had a twitter account with 97% (DeShazo, 2013) of them tweeting daily-with these numbers only increasing in the coming years, what would you do as a coach to protect your student athletes? UConn women’s basketball program enforces a new trend within college athletics by banning student-athletes from engaging in certain social media accounts throughout the season. UConn Women’s basketball coaches have banned their student-athletes from using twitter starting the first day of practice, and ending the last day of the season (Casey, 2015). Other universities such as Iowa, Louisville, Minnesota, and Purdue are following by enforcing social media rules for their athletes (Scott, 2015). Associate head coach Chris Dailey tells his student-athletes on the UConn’s women’s basketball team that the staff feels they are saving the student athletes from themselves during an emotional moment that if they tweet, they will never be able to get back (Casey, 2015). UConn Women’s Basketball and Geno Auriemma first enforced a social media ban during a visit to Europe in August 2011 while practicing, playing and touring across Europe. UConn never had a social media incident that led to the ban, coaches simply thought since their players are local celebrities and high profile athletes it would be one less distraction for them (Casey, 2015). The coaching staff at UConn also has rules eliminating phones from team meals so increase the communication with the people directly in front of you. Coaches allow their players to use Facebook and Instagram because of the increase levels of privacy on those sites (Casey, 2015). Players respond positively to the social media ban mentioning that it is not necessary and see it also as a way to keep players out of trouble (Casey, 2015).
ESPN Magazine claims that social media bans in college athletics could draw criticism and even lawsuits. When bans are enforced by team members and voted on by players with support from the coaching staff is said to be ok, but when coaches explicitly forbid players from using social media could be an unconstitutional violation of student athletes first amendment rights (Scott, 2015). In cases of public universities enacted these social media bans, coaches are paid government employees and puts them at risk for limiting student athlete’s freedom of speech (Scott, 2015). Frank LaMonte, executive direct of the Student Press Law Center, confirms that when companies limit employee’s social media use is due to them representing more than themselves where colleges would likely not use that defense because they do not want to classify their student athletes as employees (Kimes, 2015). But are there other ways colleges can proceed with student-athlete’s social media accounts? Associate athletic director at Texas Tech states that Texas Tech “…respect students’ personal media presence. We respect that. We don’t say: ‘Don’t have Twitter. Don’t have Facebook. Don’t do Instagram. What we say is: Be Responsible” (Santus, 2014). Universities are beginning to have social media policies within the Code of Conduct students sign as well as sanctions if something is posted that does not comply.
Author: Alexandria McClure (University of Vermont)- Seniors at the University of Vermont majoring in Business Administration with a minor in Sports Management.
Advisor: Rob Williams, Ph.D. (University of Vermont); Professor of Media/Communications.
Casey, T. (2015, March 27). Is There Anything UConn Can’t Do? Tweet, for One. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
DeShazo, K. (2013, March 11). Social Media Use of Student Athletes [2013 Survey Results]. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
Kimes, M. (2015, June 11). Social Media Bans May Violate College Athletes’ First Amendment Rights. Retrieved April 02, 2017.
Kishner, B.E. (2016, April 14). Why football coaches are now retweeting recruits. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
Santus, R. (2014, March 27). Colleges Monitor, Restrict Athletes on Social Media. Retrieved April 01, 2017.
Scott, J. (2015, September). Do Social Media Bans Violate the First Amendment? Retrieved April 1, 2017.