LINCOLN, Neb. —
“Tonight was the first night that I have been truly bothered by the hateful comments by people,” Bell wrote in back-to-back tweets. “That being said.... It takes so much more effort to be mean an hateful than it is to be positive an supportive. I just don’t understand it.”
It would be unrealistic to cut off players from social media — though some coaches have tried — because online communication is ingrained in the culture and can be beneficial, Sanderson said. An athlete can use Twitter to build an online identity, which helps with networking, job searches and promoting the team and university.
Southern California last year began listing football players’ Twitter handles on online biographies and in weekly game previews available to fans and media.
“This is how people communicate today, especially those from the generation of our current student-athletes. Why not embrace it?” USC spokesman Tim Tessalone wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “It also helps our fans engage with our players and vice versa. Sure, there will be some mistakes, but that’s all part of the learning process for college kids.”
Tessalone said he’s not aware of any USC players having serious problems in interactions with fans.
Major athletic programs typically address social media with their athletes. Athletes generally are told to think twice before hitting the send button so they don’t put out something that embarrasses themselves, the team and the university. At Nebraska, athletes are urged to not lash out at people who criticize them, but there is no policy on what they should do if they are inundated with negativity.
“It might be something we need to get into based on things that have transpired,” said Keith Zimmer, Nebraska’s associate athletic director for life skills.
Kevin DeShazo, who provides social media training for athletes at about 50 schools for Oklahoma City-based Fieldhouse Media, said coaches and administrators need to be aware of online threats and harassment. He said law enforcement and the platform’s administrator should be notified in extreme cases. Illinois coach Tim Beckman requires his players to sign an agreement to notify coaches if they have problems.