Wisconsin HS Athlete Suspended for Tweet

#FreeApril is big news in student athlete land this week. It didn’t have to be this way; it could all have gone away quite easily. Here’s the story, in case you don’t follow high school sports all that closely:

In December, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA), the governing body for Wisconsin high school sports, sent out an email reminding athletes and fans that chanting and taunting opposing fans and players is not permitted. As you can see below, the WIAA’s stance seems far too rigid. Included in the email were the following directions:

“Any action directed at opposing teams or spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice and unsporting behavior in response is not acceptable sportsmanship…[unacceptable chants include] “You can’t do that,” “Fundamentals,” “Airball,” “There’s a net there”…”

Unsportsmanlike conduct should have no place in high school sports, but an engaged crowd that is boisterously cheering and occasionally poking fun at the opposing team is no big deal, in our opinion.

One player on the Hilbert High School basketball team took issue with the email and directive, and tweeted the following screenshot along with the message shown:

freeapril-tweet

As much as we disagree with how strict the rules are, that was a mistake. The player was suspended for five games (by her schools admins, not by the WIAA) and local and national fans took up the cause. ESPN Analyst Jay Bilas tweeted the following, among other things:

jay-bilas-freeapril-twitter

As of today, that tweet has been retweeted over 1,000 times and liked over 3,000 times. Fans are using the #freeapril hashtag to show support.

We think that the athlete, although she apparently feels strongly about the subject, isn’t doing herself any favors. The problem for us is (a) the profanity in the tweet, (b) that she directed the tweet at the WIAA, the governing body of her sports, and (c) that she hasn’t deleted it.

When we first heard of the story yesterday, we were SURE the original tweet would have been deleted. That it wasn’t is a mistake. The odds are that someone is going to be looking at her Twitter account – tomorrow or down the road who will be trying to evaluate her character. Perhaps it will be a college coach, perhaps a future employer. The passion that she thinks she’s displaying could be interpreted as a flagrant disregard for the rules or as her having a problem with authority.

She took a stand and was punished. Her parents should have advised her to cut her losses and delete the tweet.

 

 

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Reddit Ends Shadowbans, Intros Suspensions

Unless you’re an avid Reddit user, you might not know what a shadowban is. Even if you are a Reddit user, you might not know, as many users who do get shadowbanned don’t figure it out for weeks or months.

reddit-snooThe shadowban was Reddit’s thoroughly inelegant solution to deal with, among other things, abusive users. When a user is shadowbanned (usually for abusing another redditor and getting reported for it) he can keep posting, but his posts, comments and votes are invisible to everyone else on the site. In Reddit’s own words, the Shadowban “is great for dealing with bots/spam rings but woefully inadequate for real human beings.”

Reddit previewed back in May that they would be taking a number of steps to make the site more user-friendly and free of harassment. That is easier said than done, since the site is cherished by (many of) its users as a bastion of free speech.

This week Reddit is taking what we think is a very positive step forward in its delicate balancing act between allowing free speech and users who are out to harass others. Account suspensions are now a thing, replacing shadowbans. According to a related post, suspensions can be handed down by Reddit employees (not by unpaid moderators) for the following actions:

  • Posting anything illegal, Revenge Porn or spam
  • Inciting or encouraging violence
  • Threatening, harassing or cyberbullying
  • Divulging others’ personal information (Reddit is mostly anonymous)
  • Impersonating others (does not include parodies)

Suspended users with not be able to post, comment, vote or message other users throughout the term of the suspension.

Reddit maintains that the suspension is a better solution, and we agree. Suspended users will be notified via private message, and will have the opportunity to appeal. They will know what they did wrong, and have incentive to not do it again. Suspensions can last from one day to an outright ban, which is also warranted in some cases from what we’ve seen.

The fact that there is some mature content on Reddit might make the site inappropriate for some teens. There is however, a wealth of valuable content there. Both of my teen boys use Reddit, one of them almost daily. If Reddit’s efforts succeed in making the experience safer for users, it’s a step in the right direction.

 

 

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