By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
His 15 minutes of Twitter infamy: Browns reserve linebacker Tank Carder was on the field for one play on defense against Pittsburgh, and 24 on special teams. That’s pretty much a typical game for the heretofore faceless rookie from Texas Christian who was claimed off waivers from Buffalo in September.
In a seven-day span, Carder became a cause celebre when he used an anti-gay slur word in a Tweeted response, initially declined to apologize, professed not to be a homophobe, deleted the offensive Tweets, and then apologized profusely.
“It was inappropriate and I deeply, deeply apologize,” Carder said Wednesday to beat reporters, most of whom had never spoken to him before now. “It was slang and a terrible choice of words. If I could take it back, I would. But it was said and it doesn’t reflect the way I feel.”
Carder’s indiscretion created a firestorm in the gay community. It drew an emotional letter posted on Outsports.com by a fellow football alum of TCU, who is gay. The letter was retweeted in a show of support for gay rights by Scott Fujita, a Browns teammate of Carder. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation sought to have Carder suspended by the NFL.
Carder’s misstep through the minefields of Twitterdom also earned a lecture from coach Pat Shurmur, who has tried, in vain, to curb his team’s fascination with Tweeting, and possibly a fine. Carder declined to deny or confirm if he had been fined.
Ultimately, it was the latest example of an athlete or celebrity stumbling through the pitfalls of social media.
Believe me, I know how ya feel, pal.
The Twitter explosion: Kevin DeShazo, of Oklahoma City, Okla., created Fieldhouse Media 18 months ago to consult with colleges on educating student-athletes about using social media. He cites recent studies that report 90 percent of NBA players use Twitter and more than 50 percent of NFL players (and rising by the day).
“They just don’t understand the power of it,” DeShazo said on Wednesday. “We’ve grown up with it now and have gotten comfortable with these platforms but don’t understand them.
“A lot of people get lulled into talking back in a response. They don’t realize everyone in the world can see it. It’s a false sense of security and privacy. That’s probably the biggest issue. The second one is the immediacy of it, putting out a thought without a filter. Without knowing the consequences of it, good and bad.”
Earlier this season, Greg Little responded to fans criticizing him for dropped passes and overly demonstrating first downs or a touchdown when the Browns were losing. His Tweets generated a flood of negative fan reaction. Little eventually took the advice of former NBA player Alonzo Mourning and stopped Tweeting. His game picked up measurably.
“You have to be very professional and understand that when you hit send, if there’s something inappropriate there or is not what you think, it’s a very serious deal,” Shurmur said. “I appeal to their professionalism. Case in point, Greg Little. He hasn’t twittered, he hasn’t tweeted or whatever that is. He’s never had to apologize for something he didn’t say. That’s my feeling on it.”
Let’s get educated: I’m not going to speak on the gist of Carder’s offensive remark. That’s a whole different issue. But I can vouch for the perils of Tweeting. Use a wrong word, hit a wrong button, and your world can change.
Shurmur would prefer his players not Tweet, but he seems to understand that is unrealistic.
“It is a part of life right now,” Shurmur said. “There was a time when nobody wore hats in the building. Times change, and social media is a part of our world.”
“As an athlete, you have a considerable fan base,” DeShazo said. “This is a way to interact, build a brand, build loyalty. You see guys getting sponsorships because of the way they use social media.
“It’s about being positive. If you’re just reacting to fans, responding to them, that doesn’t lead to anything good. I’ve seen people use social media to raise money for their charity foundations.”
The NFL now includes social media education in its annual presentations to veterans and to incoming players at the league’s annual rookie symposium.
“We highlight the role and responsibilities of social media in our media tape the teams see every year and in the media relations brochure the players receive,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email response. “Each team is required to hold a meeting to review media relations. We also include it in our presentations on media relations at the rookie symposium.”
One of the handouts the league gives to players includes this reminder: “Don’t post or Tweet anything you wouldn’t want your mother to read.”
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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