Some Athletes Should Take a Twitter Vacation

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In an ideal world, social media provides everyone with an engaging way to communicate with people of all kinds.

In the sports world, social media is often a channel filled with ugly, hateful and often ridiculous messages.

I’ve already touched on the Jay Cutler issue from last week in this Fourthand140.com post. And much of the mouth-breathing that happens on social networks around sports – specifically Twitter – comes from fans, as it did in the Cutler case.

But athletes can just as easily make fools of themselves in 140 characters or less.

Enter Antonio Cromartie. Already a defensive back with a reputation for being loud-mouthed, number 31 also uses his Twitter account to talk trash to fans, followers and other players.

In the past week, he’s reached out his 76,000+ followers to:

1) Physically threaten Seattle Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck.
2) Belittle and berate followers and fans.
3) Alienate himself from other NFL players as it relates to the fast-approaching collective bargaining agreement. 

Let’s also not forget Cromartie’s public strategy for covering Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward in the AFC championship game last week – outlined to the media as this:

“Grab his ass by the throat and choke the s— out of him.”

Stay classy, 31.   

Thankfully, Cromartie is headed to the offseason, where his venom will have less impact. But his actions on Twitter are unfortunate for fans and followers alike.

Why use Twitter like this? Perhaps the on-field trash-talking persona feels just as good online for players like Cromartie. Because he’s not alone. Other athletes use Twitter as a tool for intimidation, anger or mean-spiritedness.

Some high-profile examples include the Buffalo Bills Kawika Mitchell and his less-than-enthusiastic welcome to teammate Richie Incognito; the Maurice Jones-Drew/Jay Cutler fiasco, which MJD has backed down from somewhat; and the ongoing team photo fiasco with Green Bay Packers “teammates” Aaron Rodgers, Nick Barnett and Jermichael Finley. Many others could make the list…

I’m a social media purist, so when I see this kind of behavior, it’s disappointing. It’s even more so when it comes from athletes who should know better, or at the very least, should take the high road. Cromartie has done neither.

The collision of social media and sports has been a fast and violent one, giving fans unique and authentic views of the lives of athletes. Many times these are glimpses they could never have gotten without social media. Other times, unfortunately, they see very raw, uninspriring and disappointing behavior.

As ESPN.com’s Jemele Hill put it, “Sports thrive on personalities… Twitter isn’t perfect (what form of technology is?) but at least it doesn’t always give us such a one-dimensional view of athletes.” 

Yes, we need those personalities to make the games – and the inevitable off-seasons – more interesting. But that doesn’t excuse decency or kindness. I’m not asking for a sanitized glimpse into their world – just one that has a little more civility.

Thanks for being a fan.

Twittericulous: Fans, Players Torch Jay Cutler on Twitter

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Jay Cutler is not a likeable fellow. But no one deserves this.

Dinged with an undisclosed knee injury during Sunday’s NFC championship game against the Packers, the Bears’ coaching staff pulled their fiery yet controversial starter for Todd Collins.

And ridiculousness ensued.

Following the injury (which the Fox announcers handled POORLY), Cutler was seen sulking on the sidelines… sitting alone on the bench… riding a stationary bike. 

That’s when the bloodbath by Bears fans, Cutler-haters and even current and former NFL players began on Twitter, where the break-kneck speed of 140 characters and no common-sense filter played out for all to see.

I get that Twitter can be a cesspool, no matter the topic. But many of these were Bears fans (presumably) who were throwing Cutler – torn knee ligaments and all – under the bus. DURING the game!

Here’s just a PG-rated sampling of the Twitter nonsense:

“Wow, I bet the fact that Jay Cutler isn’t out on the field fighting with his team is just eating him alive!! #sarcasm #CutlerSucks

“HEY there is no medicine for a guy with no guts and heart” #Bears #Packers #CutlerSucks

“I’d rather bet that the #Cutler trending topic shifts to #CutlerSucks by the end of the game, than bet on the final score. Takers?”

These were tweets DURING the game. The Packers had not finished off the Bears until late in the fourth quarter. With third-string QB Caleb Hanie leading the way, the Bears came ever-close to knotting the game up at 21.

Following the loss, though, Bears fans took their anger from Twitter to the parking lots surrounding Soldier Field.

Yes, they actually burned Jay Cutler jerseys – presumably the ones they wore into the game. Above is a picture of one such incident – shared on Twitter.

Bears fans quickly forgot why their team was even playing that day. Jay Cutler (and a pretty stout defense) led them to the NFC North title and a No. 2 seed. It was Cutler’s ability to complete passes to a less-than-stellar receiving corps that helped the Bears reach the playoffs.

Still, Jason Whitlock, current and former NFL stars, sports columnists and commentators piled on, and continue to do so despite the knowledge that Cutler tore his MCL and that he was not cleared to play by his coach and team medical staff.

So, I say – enough.

Twitter will continue to be a junkyard that’s 90 percent garbage. With so many users, that’s inevitable. But sports fans don’t need to stoop to the that level.

It’s time for some sports civility on Twitter. If you see it, call these “fans” out on it. Don’t pile on. Unfollow. Block.

Sure, Jay Cutler is easy to hate on. But this time, he didn’t deserve it. And this kind of nonsense has no place in sports – or social media.

Thanks for being a fan.