Archive for Dangers of cyberspace

DANGERS OF CYBERSPACE: Pace University Football Captain Kicked off Team for Posing in Photo with Confederate Flag While Giving Nazi Salute

I have railed many times on this blog about how incredible it is that young athletes just don’t seem to comprehend the instantaneous and  far-reaching power of social media. Here’s the latest, hard-to-believe incident:

I can only assume –  hope? – that Tyler Owens, who is a captain of the Pace University football team in Pleasantville, NY, thought it was a joke to pose with a Confederate flag draped over his body while making a Nazi salute. Its caption is “The Grand Wizard,” a reference to the traditional leader of the Ku Klux Klan. The photo went viral on Snapchat. A number of African-American students and athletes saw the photo and immediately complained vigorously.

Owens, 6-1, 255 lbs, is a senior defensive lineman at Pace where he served as a captain last season as well. A criminal justice major, he was named to the Northeast-10 Conference Second Team last year.

It is, of course,  hard to comprehend why a senior in college — and a leader on the school’s football team — couldn’t foresee the kinds of problems that this photo would cause. Yes, some have said it was clearly intended as a joke, a prank. But in these sensitive times, it’s hard to find anyone who sees any humor in this kind of staged photo.

And I guess one could argue that Owens is entitled to his First Amendment rights to express his own personal views. Of course, if he really does embrace racist and anti-Semitic philosophies, well, that’s another matter. A very sad matter.

In any event, the president of Pace, Steven J. Friedman, immediately stripped Owens of his captaincy and also has suspended him from playing football while an internal investigation is undertaken. For Owens, this is going to be a very hard lesson to learn — especially because it’s the kind of mistake that is easily avoided.

You just have to wonder….how does this stuff continue to happen?


DANGERS OF CYBERSPACE: Even Top NBA Stars Lose Sight of the Obvious…


                                     By Steve Kallas


By now you’ve probably seen or heard some of the tweets sent out by Kobe Bryant last week during the Lakers loss in game 1 to San Antonio.  Here’s just a brief sample:

1)     “Gotta get to the block.  See wat spurs r gonna do with pau and d12”

2)     “What I would say if I was there right now? ‘Pau get ur ass on the block and don’t move till u get it.’ ”

3)     “Post. Post. Post.”

4)     “Matador defense on Parker. His penetration is hurting us.”

After the game, a bothered Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni was asked about Kobe tweeting that the Lakers should get the ball down low to Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.  D’Antoni, clearly unhappy, simply stated, “that’s what we did.”  The Laker coach then said, “It’s great to have that commentary.”  He then went on to state that Kobe, right now, is “a fan.”  Kobe responded with another tweet: “A fan?? Lol”


Obviously, he wasn’t.  Once upon a time, a leader would get into a huddle during a timeout or take a player to the side and express what he (the leader) thought would be best for the team.  With a sensitive guy like Pau Gasol, probably the worst thing you could do is make what should be a private comment public.  That’s what Kobe does over and over again with these tweets.

Whether he understands that or not is entirely a different question.


That’s certainly what it looks like.  After putting in an amazing effort to put the Lakers on the verge of the playoffs, Kobe tore his Achilles and is done for the year (the Lakers then went on to make the playoffs without him).  Now just “a fan” (according to his coach), he still needs the attention.

How do we know?  How about this tweet from Kobe the day before game 1: “I will probably tweet and follow more fans during the game on sun so if u wanna break the game down with me, tweet me.”


When he put the hash tag “nostupidwquestions” at the end of that tweet, he should have committed to himself to not make any stupid tweets criticizing his teammates publicly.

Obviously, he didn’t.


Probably not.  After the post-game furor, Kobe sent this tweet: “I see my tweeting during the game is being talked about as much as the game itself.  Not my intention, just bored as I guess #not again.”

Not again?  What did he think was going to happen?  Kobe does this to himself.  An intelligent guy on and off the court, he, like some other adults (and many more kids), doesn’t understand the potential power (and stupidity) of tweeting. 

Especially when you are publicly critical of your teammates when, in the past, virtually all of that criticism would have been done privately.

Here’s hoping there is somebody with a brain who has Kobe’s ear and can tell him all of the above.  If he has to tweet, maybe they can tell him to stay positive.  If he has to criticize, maybe they can tell him to just keep it to himself. 

At a minimum, his coach and his teammates will be thankful if he does keep it to himself (or, if physically possible, maybe he should be on the bench with his teammates – what a concept).

Kobe is smarter than this.  But he just doesn’t get it.

Hopefully, he will now.

DANGERS OF CYBERSPACE: Parents Need to Educate About Repercussions of the Internet

It’s becoming more and more commonplace for teenage athletes to post silly, stupid, or downright distasteful stuff on the web. And even worse, such activity is coming back to haunt them.

Whether it’s texting…Facebook postings…Youtube postings….twitter comments…or whatever, this is the first generation of all time that has to come to grips with the serious implications of posting embarassing stuff on the internet.

As discussed this AM with Doug Abrams, too many HS athletes assume they are protected by some sort of “right of privacy” or even the “First Amendment from the Constitution.” But as professor Abrams points out, it’s well documented in legal precedent that once a youngster joins a HS team, those so-called “rights” go out the window. Being on a school team is a privilege – not a right – and HS athletes and their parents need to know that.

So, when a HS ice hockey team posts an impromptu version of the Harlem Shake on Youtube, their school had every right to immediately discipline the team – in this case, they forced the team (Tappan Zee/Nyack high schools) to forfeit their playoff game, which basically ended their season on a very sour note.

Now, so bloggers contend that such a punishment was much too harsh  –that there was no victim here, e.g. nobody got hurt, there was no bullying, it was just boys being boys. But the problem was that argument is that there was a victim — the school district. They have every right to protect their image upon behalf of the other students and parents who live in that district.

So what’s the bottom line? First of all, parents really need to sit down and educate their kids about the dangers of social media. This is an important conversation. And the takeaway is that you have to impress upon your child to THINK AHEAD BEFORE they post anything on twitter, text, or Facebook.

What they need to understand is that something that is posted when they are 16 may come back to haunt them 5, 10, or even 20 years later.

Sounds scary, but alas, such are the times in which we live.

DANGERS OF CYBERSPACE: Now Athletes are Having their Twitter Accounts Scanned

Life used to be so much simpler with sports parenting….

But these days, in the year 2012, we have yet new challenges to encounter, most notably concerns about social media. We already know about Facebook and kids posting stupid comments and photos online that only result in trouble for them…but now as Twitter becomes more popular, athletes are even more vulnerable than ever before.

Don’t forget the cautionary case of Yuri Wright, the talented HS football prospect from Don Bosco Prep in NJ, who tweeted last year some racially and sexually suggestive nonsense. Within hours, several major football programs rescinded their offers to Wright, and the HS expelled him. You  have to wonder: a little proactive forethought would have saved this kid from a world of upheaval.

Now, more and more universities, as Doug Abrams covered on today’s show, are scanning their athletes’ twitter feeds, and have even gone so far to ban a number of words or terms from being used. The Univ of Kentucky and Louisvlle have a long, long list of banned words from twitter.

If it all sounds bizarre, well, yes, I guess it is. But then again, major universities don’t want to risk their athletic programs because one of their athletes puts out something dumb on twitter.

What’s the takeaway for sports parents?

Very simple. In much the same way that you need to educate your athlete about education, drugs, steroids, sportsmanship, and so on, you now need to add concerns about social media to the list. Unfortunately for sports parents today, the list only seems to get longer.

As I noted, sports parenting used to be a lot easier.


“Big Brother is Watching You!”… Colleges Hire Outside Firms to Monitor Athletes’ Posting on Social Media

“So here’s how it works…if your son or daughter wants to play intercollegiate sports at our university, he or she has to first sign a waiver that gives us access to all of her social media, including the password to their Facebook account, twitter account, and so on.”

Can that be possible? Isn’t that illegal? Isn’t that an invasion of privacy?

According to law professor Doug Abrams, actually, this IS possible….it’s NOT illegal…and it’s NOT an invasion of privacy.

I’m oversimplifying, of course, but more and more colleges and universities with big-time sports programs don’t want to risk having one of their athletes post something in cyberspace that might somehow jeopardize the overall athletic department. According to an excellent article by Pete Thamel in the NY Times, this is exactly what happened to the football program at the Univ of North Carolina, when a player posted a tweet that mentioned that he received some free (and illegal) benefits.

That tweet caught the NCAA’s eye, an investigation ensued, and UNC ended up being punished by losing 15 scholarships and not being able to go to a bowl game.

With millions on the line for major sports programs, no athletic director wants to be tripped up by some poorly thought-out comment online by an athlete. As a result, colleges are now hiring outside services to monitor the activities of their athletes in cyberspace.

The lesson? Student-athletes have to be strongly educated and cautioned about the kinds of comments and opinions they post online. As Professor Abrams suggests, the best way to do that is to be proactive and lto aunch a major offensive which educates young athletes to THINK TWICE before tweeting or writing comments on Facebook.

Don’t forget the example of Yuri Wright, the top HS football prospect from northern NJ. He wrote some stupid tweets, and within 24 hours, the Univ of Michigan rescinded its scholarship off and his HS (a parochial school) expelled him.

The bottom line? Yes,  colleges and most likely high schools CAN monitor your kid’s online postings. Better to warn your kids now before they suffer the consequences.

Parents Have to Teach Student-Athletes about the Dangers of Social Media

It just seems like an endless comedy of errors….but sadly, there’s nothing funny about what’s going on. Consider these recent cases:

o A top HS football player puts out a variety of offensive sexual and racial comments on his Twitter account. Within days, he’s expelled from his HS, and top college recruiters like the Univ of Michigan say, “Thanks, but we’re going to rescind our college scholarship offer.”

o A HS football coach from Maine says that he “accidentally” posted a nude photo of himself online. He quickly resigned from his post before he could be fired by the school board.

o A youth baseball league official uses the “n” word on a web posting, and he’s immediately suspended. His defense? He says he wasn’t even aware of what he had written.

My colleague Doug Abrams is one of the nation’s leading experts of the dangers of cyberspace. He’ll be the first to tell you that we’re just not doing a good enough job of educating our kids (or ourselves, for that matter) about always thinking TWICE before you post something on Twitter, Facebook, etc. 

The simple truth is that once it’s online, everybody can see it – friends, relatives, colleagues, college recruiters, bosses, you name it. And once it’s out there for everyone to see, it sure is hard to stop your thoughts or photos from going viral.

And here’s the sad part…all of these incidents could have easily been prevented. All it took was a little thought to say to oneself, “If I post this, could it someday come back to haunt me?”