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?