It’s been hard to avoid the news and reactions (from all sides) to the verdict of the George Zimmerman. The trial, which resulted from the killing of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, was both politically and racially charged. People from all over the globe and from all walks of life reacted to the not guilty verdict, and popular athletes were not immune to spur of the moment emotions the trial rasied.
Some fans want their favorite athletes to be politically outspoken activists. The truth is that some our favorite athletes aren’t interested in being political figures. The majority of them aren’t qualified to express their opinions on social topics without offending others and misrepresenting themselves, their brand, sponsors, and the organizations that employ them.
We are all free to have our opinions, but the world is also free to react to our expressed opinions. News is traveling faster than it has ever traveled before. Because of social media, reactions to big news travel just as quickly.
Athletes have big voices. With big voices come big responsibility. Athletes, you will be held accountable for your tweets, Facebook status updates, Vines, and other online messages. One unfortunate example of this case, is the Atlanta Falcons’ Roddy White’s series of anger-filled tweets after Zimmerman trial jury’s not guilty verdict.
What should an athlete do if they want to express their opinion on a controversial topic through social media? Here are a few quick pointers:
1. If there’s even a slight chance that you’ll have to apologize for what you’re about to send, don’t send it.
2. Hire a professional firm, like us at Nao, to guide you and teach you best practices for engaging on social media.
3. When discussing news items via social media, stay within your wheelhouse and comfort zone at all times.
4. In times of high emotion, it’s best to stay away from your phone, laptop, or any other device that has social messaging power.
5. If you slip and post something that you’d regret, get with your PR team and craft an apology from the heart.
6. Protect your career! I’m not saying to be a sell out and feel as though you and people who you represent should be walked over, but you must keep in mind that your brand and career are at stake at every month. Within a blink of an eye, your livelihood could suffer from a comment that took 10 seconds to craft. Spend more time considering potential repercussions from your actions than you do making controversial statements.