Athletes have come under fire by the media and society of late, but not because of on-field sledging or foul play. Instead, for their use of social media.
Just this week, Greek triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou was expelled from performing in this year’s London Olympics after she posted a defamatory tweet on the social network site Twitter.
The tweet, which was labelled racist, read, “With so many Africans in Greece… the West Nile mosquitoes will at least eat homemade food!” Papachristou tweeted.
Papachristou at first left the tweet despite strong negative reactions and uproar, however later she removed it and apologised. But by then it was too late, once a post has been seen, deleting it won’t change a thing.
The remark had already been planted in the memories of Twitter followers and had become a heated topic by outraged critics.
Olympic authorities and the head of the Greek Olympic mission said that the tweet violated Olympic values, therefore she was sent back home, no longer to represent after years preparing for the games.
Is it right to take away someone’s chance at glory because of one mistake made on social media? Where is the line drawn between a slap on the wrist and complete expulsion?
Yes, the tweet was offensive and wrong. She should be punished, but was her tweet a un-sportsmanship like act?
Or more so a personal act that should be punished outside her profession?
I agree it is against the Olympic spirit, though countries are competing against one another, you wouldn’t expect to hear that from an athlete being watched at such a profound time by their nation.
This isn’t the only case where an athlete has got into dangerous territory with a tweet.
Carlton midfielder Brock McLean was suspended for one game because of an offensive tweet directed at a fan. The tweet referred to the fan’s mother as having AIDS. Though McLean knew there was no excuse for his action, he was penalised.
But why should athletes be penalised so harshly for remarks made on social media?
If an athlete sledges an opponent on the field, they come under scrutiny and face a tribunal. It is fair that they can be suspended for this as the offence made was within their sport or profession.
However when the offence is made on a social media network, shouldn’t it be penalised within that format?
When using social networking, the athlete is speaking for themselves outside of their performing arena. Instead of suspension perhaps they should only be fined by their club or representative body, or even have their social networking rights suspended for a period of time.
Athletes are role models just as movie stars and political figures are.
But how are other public faces and celebrity figures penalised for misuse of social media?
Media hype surrounded Rihanna’s controversial Twitter photo posts featuring her at a stripper’s venue, throwing money on the women and drinking.
How was she penalised? I’m sure her label or manager didn’t cancel any of her concerts or shows because of it.
In reality an athlete is a human being just like the rest of us.
People make mistakes, unfortunately in today’s society due to social networks – everyone knows about it within minutes – even seconds. Yes, athletes should pay for their mistakes just like we do, but the question still reigns – does the suffering consequence fit the crime?
I’m not saying offensive or misconduct on social media by athletes should be ignored, it should be addressed.
I don’t believe athletes shouldn’t be punished, but instead they be penalised in a different way.
McLean was given a $5000 fine and requirement to undergo a short education program alongside his suspension, but was the suspension necessary?
Perhaps a suspension from social media, rather than the playing field, would be appropriate.