College Athletes Banned from Social Media #freedomofspeech ?

It’s senior year of high school, and with the academic year just beginning no one could be more excited for everyone’s favorite season, Friday night football. Amidst the several traditions of my high school alma mater, was the series of football/cheerleading pranking feuds to initiate the season. Not to bore you with too much detail, this is not a memoir of my past experience in affiliation with either team. Rather it was the first time I had realized social media had its unexpected consequences. In attempt to advertise the success of their pranking events, a series of pictures were posted on Facebook portraying members of the cheer team chalking ‘inappropriate male biological parts’ on a number of football players’ driveways. Though the Facebook accounts and albums were set as private to their selected number of friends, administration soon encountered these images and banned the photographed members from the team that football season.

privacyThough my high school was a privately religious Episcopalian institution, we were all still amazed by how our ‘privacy’ on social media could easily be invaded. With the privacy feature on almost every mode of social networking site, it seems convincing that we can hide undesired content from those we do not wish to share our online profiles with. Aside from making our accounts ‘private’, social savvy individuals are further altering their names on social media (i.e. the classic change my last name to my middle name on Facebook) so that future employers and academia may not ‘stalk’ their profiles. In recent news, College sports have begun to take a hard stance on social media and its use by their student athletes. However this poses as a controversial question, what happened to one’s freedom of speech?IMG_0005

With the notoriety that the NCAA brings to campuses across the nation, it seems reasonable why school’s attempt to monitor athletes’ social accounts. However what constitutes “monitoring” and have universities gone too far in protecting their public image? In recent news, Clemson University and Florida State University have banned football players’ use of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat during their season. Reasoning behind this decision has been justified by the idea that although student athletes are not particularly professionally paid they may rise to higher status of popularity and thus serve as important public figures. Senior writer for CIO Magazine Lauren Brousell addresses this issue commenting, “Social media bans and usage limitations meant to restrict college athletes raise the questions of whether or not academic institutions violate players’ rights, and if they should have to adhere to the same standards as corporations.”


Commonly in work corporations, employers are adopting social media policies to keep up with the technologically innovative age. Though these policies are typically unclear, their main objective is to prevent employees from behaving or posting inappropriate content that would attract negative publicity to their company. In order to accomplish this it is important for organizations to educate their employees about smart social media usage. However due to the fact colleges are comprised of a larger demographic that utilizes social media more readily, universities such as Clemson and FSU have taken greater measures to avoid negative publicity. Rather than simply banning the use of every social media site possible, mentors and coaches should instead educate students on the ethics of social media and what is deemed appropriate when one is affiliated with a collegiate institution.


Not all social media has its dark side. We tweet and post statuses on Twitter and Facebook so that we can encourage others to support our cause. We Instagram images that represent something we are proud we’ve accomplish. And we Snapchat story important or just silly moments in our day so that we can make others laugh. So how reasonable are college sports’ ban on athletes’ social media? Is it irrational or something that will become normative in future years to come?



  1. Great post! As a student-athlete here at Boston College, I’m well accustomed to being monitored online. At the beginning of each season, every team undergoes some kind of social media training. For my team, our coach follows all of us on Instagram and Twitter. In some past instances, players on the team have been asked to remove images or delete Tweets that could be interpreted in a negative manner.

    Although it can be annoying, I don’t have an issue with being monitored by coaching staff or athletic personnel. I do think Clemson and Florida State have gone too far. How much do you trust your athletes if they aren’t even allowed to use social networks to keep in touch with family members and friends from home? If the issue is the abuse of social networks or offensive posts, why are you recruiting athletes that do not adhere to the university’s standards? The ethics of college sports can be murky (the issue of pay-to-play and athletes that receive full scholarships), but completely prohibiting athletes from social networks seems too restrictive.

  2. Good job with this post! I think it is ridiculous for colleges to ban athletes from using social media. Just because they are on scholarship, does mean they can control all aspects of their personal lives. What will these athletes do once they are in the real-world and they can use social media for their career? They will not know how to use it properly, and they will be unsuccessful in this digital world. You brought up an interesting point with the easy accessibility to our information, despite using the tightest security settings. It is truly amazing how quickly people can access information we post online. There have been many instances of college athletes incorrectly using social media, so I would bet that schools will start to teach their athletes the proper uses of these platforms.

  3. The first amendment, which mentions freedom of speech, is not a grantor of that right but rather a restriction on government. A public university, such as Clemson or Florida State, cannot, on the face of it, infringe on students’ first amendment rights. However, I would bet that there is some clause in the contract that students and especially athletes sign that gives these colleges some control over what said students and athletes can say, do, post, etc. As far as the high school is concerned, basically all bets are off, given that it is a private institution and the first amendment does little in such case.

    That being said, I despise the politically correct nature of today. In all of the cases mentioned in this post, someone gets to decide what is and isn’t appropriate for someone else to say and do, which goes against the very idea of freedom of speech and expression. Anyways, great post!

  4. I loved this post and the fact that restrictions like this are being recognized. I do think that schools like Clemson and FSU have done the wrong thing by banning social media from their student-athletes for a couple of reasons. Firstly, by banning them from social media, the programs are showing that they do not trust that their athletes can act in an appropriate or professional manner – if they can be trusted in handling a press conference in front of millions of viewers, I believe they can handle proofreading what they tweet/post to their thousands of followers. Secondly, it sheds a bad light on the coaching staffs as it implies how little control and positive influence they have over their players’ personal lives. A coach should be a mentor on and off the field and nothing puts up a wall between players and coaches than banning them from doing things for no reason (unless they have displayed severely inappropriate behavior on social media in the past). Giving them advice and properly training the athletes on the risks of inappropriate behavior on social media is a much more logical way to go about things. I believe that if a student-athlete (especially a popular athlete seen as a public figure) uses social media in the right manner, it gives him/her the opportunity to connect with the fan base and interact with them in order to show how thankful athletes are for the fans that support them.

  5. Great post! Your pictures portray the positive side of athletes on social media, and the benefits of connecting to ones fan base. It’s a shame that schools are taking such a large network, resource, and connection tool away from their athletes. I can see some type of probation or consequence if someone were to represent their team or themselves in an unprofessional matter, but simply taking away their freedom seems unjust.

  6. Nice post. We’ll be dealing with the employment issues in a week or two. I guess it begs the question of whether one has the “right” to use social media. NCAA regulatory issues are also in play. I doubt itd be an issue for private schools, but it could be an issue for public ones.

  7. I can see from a business\PR standpoint the school knows their top atheletes can affect the image of the school. I’m not so sure this is a matter of freedom of speech however – lots of atheletes follow rules during the season like no drinking, getting certain grades, etc. I think not only are the athletes representing the school, but theyre representing their team which is a typical thing you hear from coaches, so you as a result you need to act respectfully in public. Whether that includes on social media is an interesting question, I agree that education on sm ethics and perhaps having a punishment policy in place if something does happen to surface.. but i don’t agree that schools should ban use of it all together. College students need to be able to make their own decisions.

  8. I think it is pretty ridiculous that schools are banning their athletes from using social media. As you have demonstrated with the pictures above, most of the time these athletes use these outlets as a way to show their appreciation or love for the game they play. It makes sense for coaches and administration to educate their athletes on proper conduct on social media, but taking it away completely is just unreasonable. On the flip side, I do think schools have the right to discipline athletes for inappropriate behavior on social media. These athletes are representative of the university, so it makes sense that coaches can punish these poor decisions. In general, every one needs to be aware of what they are posting on social media because we have seen how quickly word can spread because of a simple tweet.

  9. I agree that educating student athletes about social media is the best way to go. Even if coaches ban athletes from posting on social media during the season the athletes are still going to use Facebook, etc to see what their friends are posting. I’m sure athletes from those schools have made second accounts so they can secretly post as well. As your pictures from above show, athletes often use social media for good reasons like thanking and reaching out to fans. Also, if coaches don’t trust their athletes with social media then why do they trust them to be on their team in first place? It doesn’t show much faith in the student athletes. This post also reminds me of a story from my AIS class. The professor also works for a large financial company and he had to fire a first year employee for a negative social media post. There was no second chance and he was fired to show the clients that the company was serious about professional standards. The professor said it was the absolute worst part of his job. I can only imagine how bad he felt and how upset the employee was for losing his new job. Sometimes the scrutiny on social media is a bit much as in the case of Clemson and FSU. I think we need to give each other the benefit of the doubt when it comes to social media including athletes. If they abuse social media then take steps to limit its use.

  10. What a great read! I stand quite divided on this issue. On the one hand, student athletes, and professional athletes for that matter, serve as a role model within their communities. Kids look up and aspire to be like them. If an athlete posted something inappropriate or stupid, kids who do not know any better may think that that is acceptable behavior when it is not. Also, if a player attacks another player on the team, all sorts of distractions can come out of it and ultimately jeopardize a team’s play on the field. On the other hand, a school coming in a directly infringing on a students write to post seems kind of extreme. The constitutions gives all citizens the right to express themselves without fear of punishment. But then again, does it? I can’t scream bomb in a movie theater or airport unless there is actually a bomb present. I think a reasonable agreement can be met half way in between. Instead of outright banning social media for athletes, there should be a guideline as to what is acceptable. The coaches, or someone else, could monitor the social media activity and determine if the posts are appropriate.

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