Controversy Surrounds Athletes’ Use of Social Media

The power of social media once again showed this past weekend, as several athletes found themselves in hot water over tweets and pictures.
The Pouncey Twins wearing Free Hernandez caps.
The Pouncey Twins wearing Free Hernandez caps.

This past weekend saw some controversial events surrounding two highly public criminal cases. And as we have seen so often with athletes, celebrities and public figures, the spotlight is at its brightest when there is negativity attached.

A non-guilty verdict was handed down to George Zimmerman in the murder trial of Trayvon Martin. This controversial decision sent shockwaves throughout America and some well-known athletes took to Twitter to voice their opinions. While most athletes expressed shock and genuine disbelief over the verdict, some athletes responded a little more harshly.

Victor Cruz of the New York Giants tweeted, “Zimmerman doesn’t last a year before the hood catches up with him”. Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons tweeted, “All them jurors should go home tonight and kill themselves for letting a grown man get away with killing a kid”.

While many echo the sentiments voiced by Cruz and White, these particular men weren’t the ones who needed to say what they did, and both have since apologized for their tweets. As public figures and role models, they have to show responsibility and control even when faced with something as disheartening as the Zimmerman verdict.

The second major controversy of the weekend came when twin brothers and NFL offensive linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey wore “Free Hernandez” caps while out celebrating their birthday.

Now it isn’t uncommon within urban communities for people to wear clothing that says “Free (insert name)”, in support of loved ones or friends who have gone to jail. But like Cruz and White, the Pouncey twins were the wrong ones to stage a public protest, in this particular instance in support of their former Florida Gator teammate Aaron Hernandez, who has been charged with first degree murder.

Athletes have to realize that in the new day and age of social media, everything is instantaneous and a tweet or picture will be shared with millions literally within seconds. No one is saying that they can’t have their opinions, because we live in a country where we have the right to the freedom of speech and the right to express how we feel. But again, athletes, even if unwillingly, serve as role models to the youth, and they don’t just represent themselves; they represent billion dollar corporations, and their communities.

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