Guest Post by Alex Morris. Alex follows F1, Rallying, football and cricket. And, to his surprise, enjoyed the Olympics! By day is the Social Media Manager at Manchester based company, Cartridge Save.
2012 has been a busy year for Twitter; the London Olympics saw an unprecedented amount of Tweets and, in amongst all the big names Tweeting, controversy has kept the social media tool in the news. It’s questionable whether sports men and women should post Tweets at all; they’re athletes and prone to making decisions in the heat of the moment. There have been consistent examples in 2012 of Tweets being published without any forward thinking. It leads to the consideration of whether managers should remove their young chargers from the world of social media. To consider this, here’s a look at some of this year’s calamities.
Presided over by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (thankfully there is an abbreviation for this – LOCOG), the committee made it clear there would be strict rules for athletes using the social media format. With some 10,500 competitors to keep an eye on this was going to be some task for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to manage and, sure enough, Rule 40 (“no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board.”) immediately caused controversy. In defiance, Hurdler Dawn Harper posted pictures of herself gagged with a “Rule 40” strip on Twitter. This quickly escalated into a full protest, which forced the International Olympic Committee to step in and demand control of the situation.
Although the IOC encouraged Tweeting, they made it abundantly clear it would be strictly monitored; “Postings, blogs and tweets should at all times conform to the Olympic spirit and fundamental principles of Olympism as contained in the Olympic Charter, be dignified and in good taste, and not contain vulgar or obscene words or images.” Before the Games even began Greek Triple Jumper Paraskevi “Voula” Papachristou posted racist comments targeting Africans living in Greece (“With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food!!!”), and also retweeted a far-right politicians’ comment criticising immigration. She went on to apologise on Twitter, but she was still banned. This was followed by Swiss footballer Michel Morganella who Tweeted a disappointed post after losing 2-1 to South Korea. Translated into English it read “I want to beat up all South Koreans!” before accusing them of being mentally handicapped. There were immediate calls for the 23 year old to be banned.
On a lighter note, the BBC’s Denise Lewis, a former athlete, was mocked for her continuous misuse of “literally”. Many Twitter users found this mistake highly annoying; at one stage Lewis claimed, “Jess Ennis’s entrance will literally blow the roof off the stadium.” Inadvertently she caused a flood of spoof responses.
The most high profile embarrassment this year came with Ashley Cole’s verbal assault on the FA in early October. Following the unfortunate, and embarrassing, John Terry racism conviction, Cole posted a profane Tweet mocking the FA. Gary Lineker was one of the many who followed up this remark with a Tweet suggesting Cole apologise to the FA; others suggested he had put his career on the line. Eventually he did express his regret (through his solicitor), however, Cole wasn’t finished there! Having flirted with disaster once he followed this up with a highly public row with Alan Shearer regarding the England line-up. This resulted in Cole criticising the former England captain; “Alan Shearer says @TheRealAC3 needs to be banned for comments. I want his opinion on bans for kicking Neil Lennon in the head. #GlassHouses”. A further scan down his account shows his attitude towards fans; “Lol, jokers, don’t boo me then get angry because I tweet, its all fun so #takeachilpill”. With Cole it seems to be a case of controlling his outspoken nature, especially as Chelsea’s manager, Roberto Di Matteo, confirmed the left back would face punishment by his club; “We’ve got a social media policy [here] and there’s going to be a disciplinary process – action – against the tweet.”
Cole has now been charged by the FA with Misconduct and has until 16:00 on Thursday 11th October to respond. ITV has run with ‘Top 10 footballers who got Twitter wrong‘ which makes interesting reading.
Most of the F1 drivers on Twitter are well behaved. One driver stands out. Lewis Hamilton continuously lands himself in trouble with his trigger happy Tweet button. In August he dismayed his McLaren team when he, in a fit of frustration, posted pictures of his rear wing and qualifying telemetry onto his Twitter account. He quickly removed the posts and apologise.
In early October he made another blunder following a disappointing Japanese Grand Prix. After the announcement of his defection to the Mercedes team for 2013 he, for reasons best kept to himself, believed team-mate Jenson Button had snubbed him on Twitter, “Just noticed @jensonbutton unfollowed, thats a shame. After 3 years as teammates, I thought we respected one another but clearly he doesn’t.” An hour later he realised what was actually going on, “My bad, just found out Jenson never followed me. Don’t blame him! Need to be on Twitter more.” Unfortunately he’s making these blunders before his 1.1 million followers and the world’s media. Perhaps it’s time he got a press officer.
For casual observers and fans these antics can often be hilarious and a true illumination of our heroes and heroines. For the organisers, team owners and managers they can be a nightmare, whilst for competitors they can be career ending. What is clear is how it is only a few individuals who are using the platform for a means to express offensive views; others are simply not thinking about team spirit when they launch their latest Tweet. Perhaps soon it will be mandatory for the world’s top sports stars to have Tweets approved by press officers – until they can prove they’re capable of behaving themselves it would appear to be the best solution!