Coaches, Please Stop Banning Social Media

Free speech matters.

February 5, 2015
Social media is in a constant state of evolution

When will college and university coaches stop banning their players from using social media? And, are there really any legitimate reasons for student-athletes to be banned from using social media? It seems to me that higher education is all about learning and that educating student-athletes in all facets would be paramount for schools and their exorbitantly compensated coaches.

Understandably, some student-athletes head off to school with a focus that is a bit more athlete-oriented than student. It makes sense that this is the case. Especially for the "big money" sports like football and men's basketball. Generally speaking, these student-athletes aren't heavily recruited for their academics. Schools woo them with gladiator-esque stadiums and promises of glory...again, not academic success, but how they do on the field. The higher education stage that they are promised is on the turf or on a gleaming hardwood court. Classrooms are often treated as an inconvenience that gets in the way of winning the next "big" game.

When a coach says that they are going to ban their players from using social media, they usually say that it's due to the distraction effect. Essentially they are saying that student-athletes can't possibly be taught about digital identity or how to manage their own lives. Banning social media is usually more about protecting the brand of the sports enterprise at an institution.

That anyone can possibly support the banning of social media use by student-athletes is quite telling. This support is less about education and more about the indentured nature of things in collegiate athletics. Ideally, the day will come when case law removes any and all doubt that this is a free speech issue. I look forward to a day when student-athletes are no longer subject to social media bans and are instead given the educational experience that they deserve.


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