For many athletes, social media is more a curse than a blessing. It began the demise of Robert Griffin III, tweeting so often about his physical rehabilitation that Washington teammates complained that he was self-absorbed.
More recently, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall engaged in twitter war with a Detroit Lions fan, resulting in the Bears receiver agreeing to settle their differences with a boxing match. That did not set well with Bears management, perhaps even inducing a fine.
And now we have Mike Mitchell, safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, answering a critical tweet from one fan by telling him to “kill yourself.” In tweets to other fans who were insulting him, Mitchell used obscenities.
The fans made screen shots of his messages, which were published by several media outlets. When KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh asked Mitchell about his tweeting, he said, “When people tweet me, I tweet them back.”
After a Monday night victory by the Steelers in Nashville, Mitchell decided to gloat about his team’s record, so he posted this: “All haters hate blah blah blah!!! 7-4.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has told his players they can use social media as long as they’re “responsible” about it. He started a twitter account this year, saying he wanted to keep up with the times and specifically his teenage sons.
But Tomlin did not think Mitchell was being very responsible in his recent chirping. Scott Brown of ESPN Pittsburgh reported that Steelers management ordered Mitchell to stay out of social media for the time being.
Although Mitchell can brag about his team’s success, he has not been a major contributor to it. The Steelers in the off-season signed him to a $25 million contract, thinking he would be a ballhawk, since he intercepted four passes last year for Carolina.
While he’s been a forceful tackler for Pittsburgh, he hasn’t intercepted a pass or sacked a quarterback. And he hasn’t fulfilled a free safety’s primary obligation of bomb defense. Titans rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger repeatedly burned the Steelers with long gains which prompted some of the heckling by fans.
A good rule of thumb for athletes: Avoid social media if you’re having a bad year. You’re going to be in a foul mood, likely to type messages you’ll regret, and fans are not likely to cheer you up.
Marshall, Griffin and Mitchell are all having disappointing seasons, and the more they try to defend themselves with twitters and tweets, the worse their public image will become.
Before the age of social media, people were told that if they were angry at someone, write a letter but tear it up, don’t mail it. Then came e-mail, and lots of angry “letters” that should have been destroyed got transmitted. Then came social media, and the ill-considered remarks got sent all over cyberspace.
Think before you tweet. Think a lot more before you click on “Send.” Whether you’re an athlete or not.
And you might consider the possibility that your tweet will be seen by people you don’t want to see it.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton recently was the victim of a hacker, who read tweets that were not intended for public distribution. Among the stolen messages that was disseminated everywhere was one in which he called Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman “overrated.”
Perhaps that’s hardly a secret anymore. Still, Newton surely did not want his name attached to it.
We now live in a world where privacy is out the window. Or maybe we should say your window is always open.