It's a sight common to professional sports, and has become increasingly more common even at the collegiate and high school levels.

An athlete at the top of their sport, impassioned either by a perceived injustice or simply a bad day at practice, takes their frustrations off the field and onto the Internet.

A moment of brash decision-making, and seconds later their message is displayed for the world to see, on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

The situation of Georgia linebacker Cornelius Washington, who was criticized this past week for lashing out at football fans over Facebook, is another example of how athletes need to watch their step.

(To read Washington's comments, see the original story: http://tiny.cc/8wi7gw)

Because what they post can, and will, be held against them.

Not to say athletes don't have freedom of speech — they do, which is why we don't think the administration or coaching staff should regulate what athletes say on the Internet.

After all, they are entitled to their opinions, as long as they don't put others in danger.

But at the same time, athletes must be made aware that what they say does matter.

It matters to teachers and students of the University they attend, who care about the school's image and realize that athletes are the most recognizable students on campus.

It matters to University officials, alumni and boosters, who contribute their time and money to providing a safe and educational atmosphere to students.

And finally, it matters to the fans, who allow the athletes to earn scholarships and possibly make a living off their sport.

Frankly, it should matter to the athletes as well — social media can be a great asset to reaching out to fans and improving one's public image.

So athletes, don't be afraid to use social media — keep plugging away online.

But try and use your head for something other than tackling.

Because the world is watching, and there is a lot more at stake than you might think.

— Nicholas Fouriezos is a junior English and Journalism major from Cumming, and is also the sports editor of The Red & Black

(2) comments

Alum2005

I'm sure by now Cornelius has learned his lesson, but I disagree with the R&B's take that coaches shouldn't be involved or that disciplinary actions(from the coach not the admin) should be totally ruled out on the basis of "free speech". If The Program is truly trying to prepare our student athletes for the real world, then they need to learn that spouting off on social media about the people that fund their position will get them fired. If it's memorialized it can even prevent them from being hired by someone else. In the real world "free speech" has consequences, and bosses and potential employers don't care if you had a rough day or got caught up in the moment--they'll fire your butt and throw your resume' at the bottom of the pile.

Bleed Red and Black

Mr. Fouriezos,
Freedom of speech doesn't give you free reign to say something inflammatory and not have possible disciplinary actions from an organization to which you belong.
In this case the UGA football team and even the school administration, if they choose.

Also, no need to be so politically correct. It's ok to call a spade a spade. And no, that saying is not in reference to race. Although, some idiots from your generation think everything is a racist comment. Does your generation even know the meaning?
Just have some balls when writing and call people on the carpet, such as Mr. Washington. Instead of babying them in your criticism by implying everything is ok though, because you have free speech and we won't condone any punishment by coaches or administration.

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