NLRB Favors Northwestern U. Athletes’ Social Media Rights

Are football players on Northwestern University’s football team employees of Northwestern University? As of this month, the answer is definitely “maybe”, and has interesting implications when it comes to the players’ social media use.

northwestern_u-logoIn 2015, the Northwestern football players were attempting to unionize, and took their case to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NRLB ruled that they could not unionize, because such a ruling would create a serious curve ball for public, state-owned universities that play by a different set of rules. On the issue of whether the players are employees, the NLRB declined to rule.

Last year, in a separate case, the NRLB was asked to look at the football team’s rules, which the players thought were unfair when it comes to freedom of speech. The NLRB issued an “advice memo” last month, concluding that the athletes should be treated as employees, and as such the rules – particularly the rules surrounding social media and dealing with the press – were indeed unfair. They stopped short of saying that the athletes are employees.

Despite the fact that the ruling was an “advice memo”, Northwestern agreed to change the rules in a couple of ways. The changes are memorialized in an updated version of the player handbook:

Previous: social media posts by football players may be “regularly monitored” by athletic department, university officials and campus police

Updated: public social media “can be seen by any person with a smart phone or internet access, including individuals within Northwestern University

Previous: players could not agree to an interview unless the athletic communications office has arranged the interview

Updated: players may either speak directly to the media or refer that person to the athletic communications office

While we understand that free speech is important, we don’t think that the players have gained much here unless the previous rules allowed school admins to monitor private social media communications. We haven’t heard of such a policy being in place at Northwestern or any other university.

The most important phrase here is “public social media can be seen by any person…” Public is public, and while many have tried to make a more nuanced distinction, there isn’t one to be made.

Our message to the Northwestern players is to continue to be careful what you post on social media and divulge to the media. Your team and school still have rules that you need to abide by. For example, under the revised Northwestern rules, players are still prohibited from posting “full or partial nudity (of yourself or another), sex, racial or sexual epithets, underage drinking, drugs, weapons or firearms, hazing, harassment or unlawful activity.” Just because you’re free to say something doesn’t mean that saying it is a good idea, either online or in the press. Just because something is true doesn’t mean you should share it with the public or journalists.

 

 

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Texas Tech Football Coach Admits to Catfishing Players

Well, sort of. In any case, we’re not fans of this story.

Let us start by saying that if you’re the leader of an organization, and expect those below you to trust in your leadership, you shouldn’t do anything to make them believe you aren’t worthy of that trust.

Texas Tech LogoTexas Tech football coach Kliff Kingsbury admitted in an interview last week that he and his staff use fake social media accounts to spy on monitor players. Not cool.

According to Kingsbury, he and his staff set up fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook and make them look like they are owned by attractive girls, complete with cute profile pictures. The fake account then sends friend requests to his players, who are generally quick to accept the request, because, you know, cute girls… For all we know, they are doing it on Snapchat and Instagram as well.

The coaches are then privy to what players are posting, even in the event that their accounts are private. According to Kingsbury, “Those [accounts] are heavily monitored, for sure,”

We understand why coaches would do this, but don’t think they should. It is spying, and is using a totally dishonest tactics to get it done. We can’t imagine that they’ve disclosed to players that they are, or might be, doing this. When asked to defend the actions, Kingsbury offered,“[Social media is] complete and utter madness.”

That’s no excuse for deceiving your players – players who are expected to trust and respect you. I wouldn’t want one of my kids to be playing for a program that does this. It’s one thing to monitor public social media (one of the things we do here at ThirdParent, by the way), and something that we understand most major athletic programs are doing. It is another thing entirely to deceive people to gain access to their private posts.

Texas Tech ought to know better. Stay tuned for the backlash.

 

 

 

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Duke Coach Lays Out Social Media Rules For Players

Duke University is known for having high academic standards. According to the football team’s cornerback coach Derek Jones, the football team has high standards as well, and two of the areas they focus on are bringing on players with strong character and keeping distractions to a minimum.

Speaking of character, Jones said that Twitter is the number one source of player character evaluation, and that each time he tells a new recruit critically about something he saw on that player’s Twitter feed, the player is surprised that the coach knew how to look. The coaches know, and players need to be aware.

Duke Derek Jones Twitter

Duke Football Twitter

More comments from coach Jones:

  • Prospects should treat their social media pages like a job resume because [the coaches] do
  • I’ve seen [social media] cost numerous young men opportunities at our place as well as other institutions
  • I’m often asked. ‘How can we judge a kid on one mistake?’ Our jobs depend on the guys we sign. We can’t afford risk
  • We have people to check it all the time. It’s the first thing I do before I follow a young man
  • Alcohol, drug related or guns [are] definite red flags. I’ve dropped kids for all 3. For a prospect, in my opinion, it’s not good to have any gun on there
  • It also sends a bad message when kids are posting after midnight on school nights or during the season. They need to be aware
  • If you have a prospect or aspiring college player, their parents need to be made aware of the seriousness of this issue
  • It’s also important that they don’t repost or retweet inappropriate material. It raises questions about who they really are
  • Prospects must understand they are not like their peers. They are being observed at all times. They can’t do what everyone does

If you’re the parent of a high school athlete, it might sound like a good idea to make sure that his accounts are private, or to delete them altogether. Coach Jones has an answer for that as well: “If it’s private they limit their communication with us.”

With the NCAA recently having expanded how and how much coaches can contact high school players with electronic media, cutting off access is not a good idea.

If your teen has hopes of playing at he college level, and perhaps get a scholarship, social media accounts (especially Twitter) need to be public and professional. It’s that simple.

Derek Jones Twitter

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Social Media Could Be Overwhelming Student Athletes

We were reviewing the social media accounts of a student athlete this week – a college Division 1 football player who will likely be drafted into the pros next year. We aren’t going to divulge who it NCAA logois, but let us tell you what we found.

  • One Twitter account (public), open since April 2011, 24,700 tweets
  • Two Instagram accounts (public), 330 pictures and videos posted
  • 3 Facebook accounts (all private), two of which are probably the victim of forgotten passwords
  • One Vine account (public)
  • One YouTube account (public)

We found lots of profanity, and a number of crude sexual references, but overall this looks like a good kid to us, if somewhat immature. Our question is, how does he have the time to balance his sports training, personal life and go to school?

His Twitter account alone is a huge undertaking. 24,700 tweets in 61 months add up to him tweeting on average 13 times per day. Many of the tweets were replies to others, so he is clearly spending time reading what others are posting. Hundreds of his tweets include images, so he is spending time curating those pictures.

If you’re the parent of a high school athlete, this is what might be in store for your kid. In addition, in terms of social media overload, things are about to get worse. The NCAA changed its rules earlier this month for football and a handful of other sports, and starting in August coaches will be able to contact recruits electronically as often as they want, via text messaging or social media (some exceptions apply).

We assume that the player above uses his social media accounts to build his profile as a star athlete, connect with fans and friends, read about what is going on with his sport and team and generally to have fun. Now athletes will be open to being contacted by coaches and scouts 24×7.

The 4 and 5-star recruits are going to be contacted no matter what, but what about the above average high school athlete. Sure, a scholarship would be nice, but is it worth making social media a full time job? We don’t think so. Only 1 in 41 high school football players go on to play Division 1 football, and not all of them get scholarship. The odds of a high school player making it to the NFL are 1 out of 600.

Set some limits for your teen if and when the messages from coaches start rolling in. Make sure that the schoolwork gets done. Help him find balance in his life so he doesn’t get overwhelmed.

 

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NCAA Changes Recruiting Rules for Texting, Social Media

Life is about to get a lot more hectic for top high school athletes who are looking for a great scholarship opportunity and a chance to play at a top college. Colleges now have much more leeway in reaching out via text message or social media in some sports, most notably football. Twitter will play a large role.

ncaaIn 2007, the NCAA banned football coaches from electronically contacting recruits. The focus of the ban at that time was text messages but it extended to social media messaging.

Under a rule change enacted this week, schools still cannot contact recruits before Sept. 1st of their junior year, but after that can contact targeted athletes electronically, as often as they want.

Not all coaches are in favor of the change. Urban Mayer, football coach at Ohio State (who incidentally has no problem recruiting top talent), had the following words to share, implying that the NCAA is making the change because existing rules are too hard to enforce:

“The texting thing is the most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Do you really want text messages from 100 universities on your phone when you come out of school? The ones I know don’t. ‘What? I don’t want to hear from these schools.’ Some intern is going to be punching text messages on your phone, and maybe you can block numbers and all that, but that’s just too hard, right? Maybe it’s easier for the enforcement because people are doing it, but it just doesn’t make sense.”

247Sports national scouting director Barton Simmons was quoted in USA Today saying that the change makes social media a much more important recruiting tool:
Twitter logo

“In a lot of ways Twitter is better than texting because if you don’t have a kid’s phone number, you have to find it somewhere. With Twitter, you can find him, follow him and he follows you back and you’re on the way.”

As indicated above, when it comes to Twitter, some observers note that recruits will have to follow coaches back in order to be able to receive direct messages (DMs) from them. That’s not entirely true, as Twitter users can set their accounts to enable DMs from anyone. A quick look at the 247Sports top football recruits for the class of 2017, at least one player in the top 10 has a Twitter account that is open to receiving DMs from anyone.

A couple of thoughts for parents of high school football players:

Your teen might need more help managing his time. School and other activities are an important part of life, and you don’t want him on his phone 24/7 fielding incoming messages from coaches.

His social media profiles are likely to get more scrutiny. Some schools are already doing a good job of vetting recruits by checking out their digital footprints; others are not. If schools are eager to find your kid via social media, they will likely spend more time looking at what he posts online.

If you need help ensuring that your child’s social media profiles are not a deterrent to being recruited, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

 

 

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Survey – Most College Sports Recruiters Check Social Media

Student athletes at the high school level are in a curious position. If they are outstanding performers, they can bring a lot of value to the college that they attend, and college sports are a huge business. At the same time, they are asking a lot – in the best-case scenario a full scholarship, the value of which can exceed $200,000.

Colleges are free to recruit and offer scholarships to anyone they choose. If you’re the parent of a HS-FOOTBALL-1student athlete, you have precious little control over who recruits your child. Nor do you have any control over what any given school deems to be important beyond sheer athletic ability. Often it comes down to character. Some programs choose to fiercely guard the reputation of their institution and do not recruit students who may be a bad actor. Some put teamwork high on the list, and will not recruit renegades or gunslingers. Others have strong feelings about bringing on good people, and stray from any recruits who may appear to have racist or homophobic leanings or who engage in cyberbullying.

How do college recruiters determine character? In addition to interviewing players, coaches and parents, increasingly they are turning to social media to determine who the “real” person is inside the player.

A new survey out this month by Cornerstone Reputation has perhaps the most comprehensive look into the minds of college sports recruiters on the topic of how social media plays into the recruiting process. The highlights:

  • 99% of respondents said that players’ character is either important or very important in the evaluation process
  • 83% of college sports recruiters have checked out recruits online in the last recruiting season
  • 80% of recruiters have found something online that reflected negatively on a player
  • 17% have rescinded a scholarship offer over something they saw online

What the survey didn’t ask was how often recruiters simply stop looking at an athlete because of something negative or questionable that they saw online. From the coaches we’ve talked to, this happens often – bad risk; move on. And by the way, they rarely if ever tell the recruit why they’ve moved on. There is zero feedback.

Which social media sites are they checking?

  • 88% of recruiters check Facebook
  • 82% check Twitter
  • 54% check Instagram

A related word to all the high school athletes out there – if you use a pseudonym for your Twitter or Instagram account and think that makes your account anonymous and/or “private”, you may be jeopardy. If they do find your account, via your teammates’ accounts or because you slip up, they won’t give you a free pass. It may make it look worse that you are trying to hide your actions.

College hopefuls need to be very careful to never post anything online that may be viewed negatively, even if you’re doing it as a joke. Of course that’s the bottom line, but let’s not stop there. The survey also found that 86% of recruiters have seen something online that make them like a recruit more. Your social media accounts can be not only a place to showcase your athletic accomplishments, but also a forum to show what a fine young person you are. You can do it.

If you need help, you can check out our service.

 

 

 

 

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Should College Players be Banned from Social Media?

With the U.S. college football season about to get under way, social media has been getting a lot of attention – in more ways than one.

  • There is no shortage of stories about college players getting in hot water for something they posted online, or something that was posted about them. Ditto for the pros
  • College coaching staffs have dramatically increased the ways they are using social media, and how much they are using it, to recruit n
  • High school hopefuls, whether they know it or not, are being judged by college programs at least in part based on what they post online. Are they a good risk for the school that they hope will grant them a scholarship?
  • High school players, or eveew playersn entire teams have been punished or suspended for inappropriate online activity

This month, big time programs Florida State and Clemson both announced that they are banning players from posting on social media for the season. In the case of Florida State, the ban is described as “voluntary”, and has been in place since 2011. At Clemson, shutting down social media came as a surprise to players. Many of them posted about it online and seemed to be okay with the idea (proof that they are trained to say the right things online at least some of the time?). At least one journalist thinks it’s a bad idea.twitter-ncaa

Contrast that with the news this week that another major college coach, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, thinks that such a ban is a bad idea. In an article at NewsOK:

“We’re going to try and educate them and talk to them about what’s positive and the negative and things to stay away from, and try to go [in] that direction. … You know, we have 132 players on our team. To try and regulate or put a stop to that for us here, we just don’t have the manpower to handle that type of situation.

Our players understand that they need to be very careful with what they put out there… They revolve around their phones. So, we educate them and try to get them to make good decisions….”

The article above had a related poll, asking sports fans if they thought that social media bans are a good idea. The results were overwhelmingly against the bans. 94% of respondents answered “no” to the question “Should college football programs ban players from social media during the season”.

college-fb-social-media-poll

We agree with coach Gundy that an outright ban runs contra to the goal of educating young men. Teaching what is appropriate in terms of online conduct is certainly possible. Banning it altogether could lead to players using fake accounts, or relying on the false security, such as the idea that Snapchat pictures are private then disappear.

We don’t ban teens from driving because they might get in an accident. Let’s not ban social media – an integral part of modern life – because of the risks.

 

 

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Penn State Football Coach on Social Media Recruiting

By now, you’re probably aware of the fact that NCAA coaches and scouts are watching social media very closely. The use it to communicate with recruits, and they use it to help assess athletes who they may be recruiting.

How closely they are looking at it, and how much time they spend analyzing it, might come as a surprise. Of course, one might assume that if a high school athlete posts something online that is clearly racist or sexist, or portraying him doing something illegal, that might be a black mark against him. It turns out that some coaches are taking a much more nuanced view. From Penn State Football Coach James Franklin interviewed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“Franklin said social media gives the staff a window into who a prospect is based on his tweets, retweets, likes and follows. It can turn them on or off to a kid based on what they find.

Social media posts in the wee hours of the morning on school nights or repeated posts with inappropriate content can be met with a red flag from the staff. ”

For the Penn State program, it’s not just what a player tweets, but also who he follows, which posts he likes and which he retweets.

That can be a high bar for kids who aren’t thinking about football 24×7. If you see something that’s funny, of course your impulse might be to fav it, or retweet it. Well, doing that could be sending a bad message.

Our message isn’t that high school athletes should muzzle their sense of humor, or that they have to be constantly thinking about their sport and their prospects. Rather, they need to keep the less serious moments offline, and not forever posted for anyone to see. It’s not easy, but it is possible.

FSU-social-media-ban

It seems that the Florida State football program doesn’t want to take the risk that their existing players might post something inappropriate. Effective today, all players are banned from social media entirely until the end of the season.

We hope that this doesn’t become a trend. Perhaps if players don’t give coaches a reason to be concerned, it won’t need to be.

 

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Arkansas Coach Highlights Social Media Risks

With the 2015/16 college football season fast approaching, the SEC, the country’s powerhouse conference, held their pre season Media Day on Wednesday.

Student athletes and social media – the good and the bad – are a hot topic these days and they go hand in hand – from players promoting themselves to college coaches using it to contact and woo start athletes. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema took the topic head on at a press conference where he chose to focus on what types of players he recruits (or doesn’t). Interestingly, the impression of players that he and his staff can glean from social media, particularly Twitter, is something he takes very seriously.

“…you recruit your own problemsI can’t stress enough that just because you’re a great player in the United States of America doesn’t mean Arkansas is going to recruit you. We have a social media background screening that you’ve got to go through, and if you have a social media nickname or something on your Twitter account that makes me sick, I’m not going to recruit you. I’ve turned down players based on their Twitter handles. I’ve turned down players based on Twitter pictures. It’s just that’s how I choose to run our program. I’m never going to waiver in that.”

Bielema is completely unapologetic – his program, his rules. We’re guessing that dozens, perhaps hundreds of high school players nationwide have been passed over by the Arkansas staff because of something they posted online.

If you’re a high school athlete looking to make it in college, this is something you have to take seriously. Even if you think what you’re posting is a joke, someone else may not.

Consider what pro footballer JJ Watt had to say about social media last week:

“Look at every Instagram post about 95 times before you send it. A reputation takes years and years and years to build, and it takes one press of a button to ruin. So don’t let that happen to you. Just be very smart about it.”

Good advice there – don’t post anything unless you’re sure you’re in the clear. Worried about something you may have posted in the past? You can enroll now and let us help you sort it out.

 

 

 

 

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When High School Athletes Get Catfished

The term “catfish” generally refers to a person online pretending to be someone they aren’t, usually to extract some benefit or to cause embarrassment. Usually it’s a boy/fake girl thing (i.e. the Manti Te’o story), but that’s not always the case.

Check out this Twitter account. It belongs to an upstanding (as far as we can see) high school football player. He’s a senior, and had a very good high school career. We don’t know yet whether he’ll be playing at the college level but he probably would like to.
high-school-catfish
Now check out this Twitter account.Twitter-catfish

This is not the same kid*. It’s someone pretending to be him, and not trying very hard. While the pictures appear to be of the victim, and the account header is the same, the account handle is @notxxx (xxx = victim’s real name) and the first person the fake account holder followed was the victim – a real tipoff.

It’s not bad enough that the victim has someone impersonating him. Some of the fake account’s tweets are filled with foul language, and several of the tweets were vile threats against an organization that supports high school athletes with social media training.

Twitter-threat-1It appears that the fake account was reported to Twitter by a good hearted bystander, so let’s hope it gets taken down before too many people see it, especially any college coaching personnel.

Obviously, there’s an element of bad luck when it comes to this happening to you, but there are a couple of things you can to do play defense before and if it happens.

Be alert – The fake account was created 4 days ago, and as we said above, the first person that the fake account followed on Twitter was the victim. Had the victim been paying attention (maybe he was) to his new followers, he could have seen and reported the imposter (maybe he did). Paying attention to your new followers, even if you don’t follow back, is a good idea. In this case, the victim has 901 followers and has been on Twitter for 1,006 days, so that’s less than one new follower per day. You can stay on top of it.

This probably wasn’t random – It may be that the victim was a needle picked out of a haystack, but it’s more likely that the bad guy here is someone that the victim knows. Not to blame the victim here – we aren’t – but in reputation management, nice guys finish first. Any enemies you accumulate along the way can come back to haunt you. If you beat a team 52 – 0, or beat out another player at your school for a starting spot, it never makes sense to be anything but gracious.

*Is the victim behind this? – We can’t dismiss the chance, however slight, that the victim set up the fake account himself as an attention getting stunt. While that’s probably not the case, we caution everybody that this is a very bad idea. First impressions are very important.

If it happens, report it quickly – Twitter has a form on their site that easily allows users to report imposters, or accounts that were hijacked or otherwise compromised.

Be proactive – Now that the impersonation is going on, the victim can choose to do a number of things.

  1. Tweet out a few times that there is an imposter that is NOT him
  2. If he has been communicating with college reps on Twitter, reach out and inform them of the situation
  3. If the fake accounts harassed other twitter users, the victim can reach out and explain/apologize

Reputations are fragile things and the Wild West that is social media doesn’t make it easy to maintain yours. Be vigilant, and if something happens, act quickly to repair the damage. Don’t bother trying to engage with the imposter; just do what you can to repair your reputation and do what you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

 

 

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