Athletes’ Social Media Capacity

Sports have been a stage for entertainment. Over the last month, and increasingly so, sporting events have been used as grounds to showcase opinions for political and social justice. Colin Kaepernick, Arian Foster, and Megan Rapinoe are just a few of the athletes who have decided to sit during the national anthem before their games. These men and women are acting as such to continue the “conversation” for social justice and equality for all. As a result, anything out of the norm or just simply new will always bring out strong opinions on all social media platforms. I love using Twitter and ever since Kaepernick took a seat during the anthem in the pre-season, Twitter hasn’t given the San Francisco quarterback a break.


The hashtags, #VeteransforKaepernick, #BoycottNFL, and #KapSoBlack, started to trend and are still some of the most used hashtags on Twitter! He became so infamous all over Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram that he led his team in jersey sales for a month…as the backup quarterback! When was the last time you heard the backup quarterback leading an NFL team in jersey sales? Since his remarkable run to the Super Bowl in 2012, his career has certainly fallen off. But, here he is, as the most talked about athlete in the country right now. If he had done this 50 years ago, people would have seen this on the news for a day and it would have passed. However, due to Twitter’s platform, users can continue to tweet their emotional opinions. Thus, an athlete realizes how much of a polarizing figure he or she is and can decide to act in such a way to cause this sort of reaction. Nowadays, social media is such a great platform for current events and breaking news that anything an athlete does, which is somewhat to the degree of Kaepernick’s action, will cause a huge  worldwide debate.

We can say the same for both Rapinoe and Foster. Rapinoe certainly had her shining moments as a member of the USA Women’s National Soccer Team, winning Olympic Gold and a World Cup. Foster was once one of the best running backs in the NFL. Both are no longer at the top of their respective sports, however, since we rely on social media so much as a news source any athlete in any position can seriously make a stance or bring to a light a social issue. I’m certainly not saying these athletes across the country are doing the right or wrong thing by sitting or taking a knee during the national anthem. However, this proves that sports in this country is on a stage that any athlete can easily have the light shine on them via Facebook or Twitter. Each and every one of these athletes know their abilities as an athlete in this country. In the United States, we put athletes on such a pedestal, which we can certainly prove by looking at how many followers they all have on Instagram and Twitter. These are people we love to watch perform in their respective sports and will always feel connected to, even more so on these various platforms.

These men and women captivate our attention like nothing else. And with the help of Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram we only love them more! There are Twitter settings to alert users when certain people tweet. As a result, many people can be notified when their favorite athlete has something to say. These platforms have only elevated the stature of sports athletes in America. For example, we only used to see NFL players on Sundays during their games. Now via Snapchat we can see what Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. are up to on their free time.


Social networks have completely changed the landscape of sports. Leagues and teams have become corporations and they have each used social media to gain traction as their popularity increases. As more people feel connected to these men and women, they attend more games, buy more jerseys, and watch more sports. What does this mean? More and more money for leagues, teams and players. Athletes certainly have their public relations teams telling them to keep their Twitter and Snapchat presences up to grow their popularity amongst fans. For instance, Kaepernick leads his team in jersey sales as the backup quarterback, Brandon Marshall makes a bet with Antonio Brown on his car on Snapchat, and there’s always Johnny Football Tweeting something.


Recently we have all witnessed how social media has reacted to many athletes taking a knee or a seat during the playing of the national anthem. They have all done so to create a “conversation” about social justice. In this generation, as we are all so reliant on various social media platforms, the “conversation” is certainly taking place. Due to America’s love for its athletes, we can see everything they do. Athletes have such a following in this country that they can certainly create a stir by doing anything. And since social media is so open, it will continue to resonate with the entire population. Some of the most followed people on any social network are athletes. Due to their popularity they can easily bring forward any social issue and create a worldwide debate, which is not something the average Twitter user can do. The average user would have to put in a lot more effort to be able to cause a social media trend.

The key to athletes and their popularity on social media is the money they generate. By increased popularity they can make more money off of jersey sales and sponsorships, since companies will see how popular they are with fans. The current state of America’s love for sports and the world’s need for social media places athletes on a pedestal unlike any other.



  1. gabcandelieri · ·

    Great topic! I was also considering writing about how truly polarizing responses to athletes’ actions on Twitter really are and how this can affect a company’s brand image in regards to endorsement deals. The American culture definitely displays a kind of hero-worship when it comes to athletes. Companies who strategically utilize this admiration for athletes to bolster their following on social media or generate sports merchandising sales, are definitely taking advantage of the public’s current obsession with digital information sharing. Recently, my sports marketing professor asked our class whether, as CMOs of companies that have endorsement deals with Colin Kaepernick, we should drop him as a sponsor. At first, I figured the publicity was not worth the PR headache; however, from a completely strategic digital perspective, the social media buzz surrounding the football quarterback has not only exposed his personal beliefs, but has also put the brands he sponsors in the limelight, which is not necessarily a bad thing…

  2. Aditya Murali · ·

    Great post! Throughout this entire Colin Kaepernick ordeal, I am so glad that I have had social media to look to as I figured out my position on the topic. Initially, I was outraged by this protest and thought it was extremely disrespectful. However, as conversation ensued on social media, I was exposed to other viewpoints and different arguments and I was able to acquire a broader perspective and different understanding of why he’s doing what he’s doing that I initially did not have.
    This what I love about social media; athletes and other celebrities have this opportunity to express themselves and connect with their fans in ways other than the post-game interviews. With this platform, they can talk about the issues they care about and use their popularity and following for a noble purpose.

  3. Interesting post! This is something that I have been thinking about lately as well- the notion of how social issues are now addressed on social media sites- particularly if athletes are the ones driving these conversations. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow for political and social issues to become more widespread than if these platforms did not exist, and for the conversation to stay in the media longer than it would have had these platforms not exist. Nowadays, I see more politically driven posts on Facebook than ever before. While sometimes I do question the impact of these posts, when you really think about how the posts have the potential to be shared across these networks, the impact may be telling. Friends of friends of friends will start to share moving posts or posts that they like that relate to these social issues. In addition, I liked your point about how social media accounts of athletes and celebrities alike are businesses within themselves. This is very true- when I scroll through my instagram, often times the pictures that celebrities and athletes post are not genuine events, but rather solely sponsorships for products. It may be interesting to see if Instagram transitions completely to a business platform rather than a place for social gatherings between friends.

  4. What’s always been interesting to me about social media and sports is there inherent competing interests involved. The players, the team, and the league are all their own separate brands, and these brands sometimes have conflicting interests that can be difficult to work out. For example, while Kapernick’s actions may be positive for his brand, they may be less so for the team and the league.

  5. ikechukwu_28 · ·

    Great topic. I’m also a heavy Twitter user, and one of the beast features I think Twitter has is how it can connect you to your favorite athletes or celebrities. Many athletes are staring to realize how powerful a platform it is, and are starting to utilize it to extend their brand.

  6. Great read. As followers of social media we have the opportunity to see personalities and aspects of an athlete’s life that we are not able to see during competition or post game interviews. This past summer Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth Snapchatted their round of golf while they were on vacation in the Bahamas. They were golfing in bare feet and bathing suits, doing trick shots, and drinking heavily. Many people in the golf world were outraged that the game of golf was being disrespected. Other’s felt that this was great for the game of golf as it revealed a more fun side of the sport and catered to a younger generation. I believe that as time progresses major sports leagues will realize that fans enjoy displays of personality, and that they are great for publicity. Maybe social media will even get credit for bringing touchdown dances back to the NFL in the future.

  7. magicjohnshin1 · ·

    Awesome writing for this post. This topic has actually come up in 3 of my classes so its definitely something that is super relevant. One idea that really intrigued me was the marketing aspect of it. For example with Kap, would you drop him as a sponsor because of all of this negative traffic / advertisement due to the influx of social media? This is crazy because its something you have to think about so heavily nowadays since social media has such a huge influence on people’s decisions. Great post and can’t wait to read more, cheers!

  8. This is a really interesting topic and well written. I think that social media has certainly shaken up the status quo in professional sports, as you alluded. We have more access to athletes, so they become more real and human like the rest of us. This has certainly caused its fair share of drama, as Americans struggle to redefine our expectations of pro athletes in the digital era. But at the same time, we also have more access to more athletes which increases the conversation and gives them a greater role (a la Kapernick).

    Intrigued to see how our expectations of stars evolve as social media ages!

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