Today, social media is part of our everyday lives. While I’m not proud to admit, when I wake up, after I turn off my alarm, the first thing I do is check twitter and instagram. I am a sports fanatic and love that in addition to connecting with friends, social media keeps me up-to-date in the world of sports. The global explosion of social media has been reflected in sports with professional athletes interacting with fans and promoting their own personal brands, business ventures, charities, and so on. LeBron James has nearly 13 million followers on twitter and 5 and a half million on instagram, he also led the NBA in jersey sales this season. Just to name a few, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, David Beckham, and Serena and Venus Williams are high-profile athletes that have their own personal clothing lines, which they each promote via social media. While fans love when their favorite athletes respond them on social media, these professional must use caution. As Socialnomics author Eric Qualman says, “What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube” and twitter and facebook, etc. Posting a racial slur or responding to a fan in a homophobic manner can get you fined thousands. Desean Jackson, wide receiver for the Washington Redskins, was cut from the Philadelphia Eagles for alleged gang affiliations. I’m sure some pictures he posted on instagram of himself hanging out with known gang members didn’t help his case (see more here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/eagles/2014/03/28/desean-jackson-released-philadelphia/7011703/). Roy Hibbert, center for the Indiana Pacers, was fined 75 thousand dollars for saying “no homo” in a post-game interview (see interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w71AtGDfTZg). Donald Sterling, soon to be ex-owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, caused an eruption on twitter with his racial slurs that ultimately led to a lifetime ban from the NBA and a 2.5 million dollar fine (see story here: http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/10857580/donald-sterling-los-angeles-clippers-owner-receives-life-ban-nba). With the steady rise of social media it is strange to think of the possibilities that may arise from it. Just think, it’s already hard to watch a playoff basketball game without stream of tweets playing at the bottom of the screen at some point and it’s near impossible to watch ESPN without hearing what LeBron’s day entailed, on and off the court. Yes, social media is already huge, but the next big thing is bound to be bigger than sites like Facebook and twitter are today. While there are endless possibilities, it is certain that everybody, not just professional athletes, will need to adjust with the times.
By Matthew Gruskin