[Clickworthy] Once again athletes, think before you tweet

If twitter were a loaded gun, no telling how many athletes would have shot themselves in the foot – or worse.

A great piece in this morning’s (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger by legendary sports columnist Rick Cleveland on the hazards of 140-character public statements by (particularly) college athletes. Included are eight maxims of Tweeting that everyone should be aware of, but so few seem to be (I’m looking at you, Mr. Weiner).

C.J. Johnson, a 5-star recruit heading to Ole Miss in the fall, was the latest public figure to not realize that he was one. SportsbyBrooks preserved a host of obscene tweets, many of them denigrating to women, and a few more relating to a new vehicle Johnson supposedly obtained during his recruitment period (the link is but one screenshot, and it does contain offensive language).

Johnson’s tweets aren’t uncharacteristic. High schoolers and college freshmen say stupid things. But until recently, they haven’t been said so publicly, which tends to become a problem when that everyday high schooler/freshman suddenly becomes a person of public interest.

His tweets are also part of a greater unfortunate trend among black Twitter users. Patrice J. Williams wrote a thoughtful article in January about the habits of the disproportionately large number of African-Americans on Twitter. She observes how “Black Twitter” serves to reinforce negative stereotypes about the community as a whole – and especially black youth. Johnson bears the weight, however misappropriated, of adding to that regrettable portrayal.

Johnson closed his Twitter account shortly after the story broke (he deactivated his Facebook account months earlier after getting into a public dispute with Mississippi State fans). Cleveland suggests that the potential star football player go further than that – to consider all of his words as just the type of public statements they now are, and to, perhaps a little sooner than the typical incoming college freshman, grow up.


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