April 21, 2014 Articles

College Sports and Social Media: Leave Your Rights in the Locker Room?

Colleges do not need limitless control over their athletes' social-media lives.

By Frank LoMonte – April 21, 2014

When the head football coach at Washington State University learned that several players used abusive language about women and minorities in posts on their personal Twitter accounts, he ordered his entire team to stay off the micro-blogging site, under threat of suspension from playing. The edict wasn’t unique: Coaches and athletic departments from the University of New Mexico to the University of Minnesota to Florida State University have banned athletes from using Twitter, either preemptively or in reaction to intemperate online remarks.

Student journalists in a reporting class at the University of Maryland recently examined the social-media policies at 59 major-college athletic programs, and found that restrictions on what athletes can say online are commonplace—and at times expansively subjective. A typical policy, enforced by the athletic department at Missouri State University, prohibits “offensive or foul language that could embarrass or ruin the reputation of yourself, your family, your team, the athletic department or Missouri State University.”

Premium Content For:
  • Litigation Section
Join - Now