A few major league baseball players have found themselves in trouble this year over various insensitive things they posted on social media. But in the cases of players like Sean Newcomb, Josh Hader and Trea Turner, these weren’t unfortunate tweets, Facebook updates or YouTube videos they posted after celebrating a recent victory. These were from their college days or, in some cases, high school. There is an army of both professional and amateur sleuths out there who are willing to spend the time to pour through every social media entry by famous individuals from sports to politics, looking for some juicy gotcha material. And defending professional athletes against such pitfalls has now become an industry of its own. (AP)
As major leaguers Trea Turner, Sean Newcomb and Josh Hader face up to racist and homophobic tweets they sent as teenagers, publicist Lauren Walsh recalls how she dealt with a football player who had offensive Facebook posts years before he prepared for the NFL draft.
She went through his whole social media history, taking down any posts that even raised an eyebrow.
Scrubbing tweets, Instagram posts and other comments, captions and status updates has grown into a top priority for LW Branding, Walsh’s company that has helped 40 NFL athletes with image control in the past 3 1/2 years.
“Any client that we take on, that’s generally the first step we do in the process,” Walsh said. “This can take someone down in an instant. All it takes is one tweet. Now, he’s going to be known for this. This is what people are talking about.”
This is apparently the new normal in the internet era. Young people getting their start in the professional sports world today, or even aspiring young politicians, have grown up broadcasting their thoughts, their lives and their special (or decidedly not special) moments for all the world to see. Agents are being hired who comb through the dumpster of their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram histories, deleting anything which was offensive or might be taken as such.
Unfortunately for these new celebrities, most of these postings are archived someplace and can be found by determined snoops even if they delete them. Heck, the Library of Congress has a lot of your tweets, even though they don’t collect 100% of them anymore. Other archives exist, so those old thoughts and selfies are probably still lurking out there somewhere.
Does anyone else find this to be a rather sad state of affairs? Yes, I realize that we can all climb up on our high horses and say that if somebody tweeted something that sounds racist, homophobic or offensive to anyone, even if it was in the distant past, then the public deserves to know about these horrible people! Perhaps so. But that still seems a bit harsh, particularly when you’re talking about kids. If we’d had Twitter and YouTube back when I was in middle school and high school I shudder to think of some of the “incidents” involving my friends and me which would be out there. Of course, that was the sixties in a rural region and we grew up awash in a markedly different environment, but that wouldn’t be any excuse today.
No matter when you were born, can any of you honestly say that you’ve never done or said anything you would be embarrassed about today back when you were a teenager? And if you suddenly got your big break in sports, business or politics, should that be the deciding factor in whether you succeed or fail? Pretty much everyone has a digital paper trail now, stretching back more than a decade. As the years go by, it will soon contain the record of everybody’s entire life. Perhaps knowledge of this will spur people to be better behaved, but teenagers aren’t always that aware of responsibilities and repercussions. But the new reality is that it’s not good enough to simply be perfect today. You have to retroactively be perfect going all the way back to your first entry into the social media scene.
When Andy Warhol said that someday everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes I don’t think he was expecting this.