As major leaguers
Trea Turner, Sean Newcomb and Josh Hader face up to racist and homophobic
tweets they sent as teenagers, publicist Lauren Walsh recalls how she dealt
with a football player who had offensive Facebook posts years before he
prepared for the NFL draft.
She went through
his whole social media history, taking down any posts that even raised an
Instagram posts and other comments, captions and status updates has grown
into a top priority for LW Branding, Walsh’s company that has helped 40 NFL
athletes with image control in the past 3 1/2 years.
"Any client that we
take on, that’s generally the first step we do in the process,” Walsh said.
“This can take someone down in an instant. All it takes is one tweet. Now,
he’s going to be known for this. This is what people are talking about.”
Turner and Newcomb
are the latest high-profile athletes burned by reckless posts from years
past. The 25-year-old Newcomb nearly threw a no-hitter for the Braves
against the Dodgers on Sunday -- a career defining moment that took a turn
when he called reporters back into the clubhouse to apologize for offensive
tweets sent in 2011 and 2012, when he was 18.
racially insensitive tweets by Turner from 2011 and 2012 surfaced Sunday
night. The 25-year-old Turner, a shortstop for the Washington Nationals,
apologized in a statement released by the team.
“I believe people
who know me understand those regrettable actions do not reflect my values or
who I am,” Turner said. “But I understand the hurtful nature of such
language and am sorry to have brought any negative light to the Nationals
organization, myself or the game I love.”
Hader, who pitches
for the Milwaukee Brewers, is still in apology mode after tweets from his
past surfaced during the All-Star Game this month. He was given a standing
ovation in his first game back in Milwaukee, and then booed when the Brewers
made their first road trip of the second half of the season in San
The trend touches
many young athletes, with millions of posts from thousands of players who
have been online since they were kids.
quarterback Josh Allen apologized for a series of offensive tweets he sent
while in high school that were revealed right before the NFL draft, when the
Buffalo Bills selected him seventh overall. As Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo
was celebrating being named most outstanding player of the Final Four, some
of his old tweets that included racially insensitive and homophobic comments
“This stuff happens
all the time and it happens when they get their shining moment,” Walsh said.
“When all of us were 17, we weren’t thinking about where we were going to be
in our lives seven years down the road.”
But athletes should
start thinking about the bigger picture, as damage from slip-ups can be
critical to coaches and executives, Walsh said.
The mistakes by
Turner, Hader and Newcomb will be discussed by athletic departments,
professional teams, agents and handlers looking to protect themselves and
their players. As higher-ups grow more aware of the damage social media
mishaps can cause, vetting could become more rigid as a key part of
evaluating a multimillion-dollar investment.
“In light of recent
events, that’s definitely something our staff will discuss to potentially
eliminate the chance of a negative situation that puts a student-athlete in
a bad light,” said Creighton spokesman Rob Anderson, who said he doesn’t
know of any staffer going through a player’s entire social media history.
keeps up with social media and offers education programs for 15 Division I
schools, including North Carolina, Texas and Florida. Chief executive Joe
Purvis said business is at an all-time high since 2010, with sales doubling
in the past year.
It’s not just
athletes who should be wary of their past mistakes, Purvis said.
and normal employment recruiters are now looking at social media profiles as
well as resumes as a standard of that person’s character,” he said. “If your
social profiles have negative posts, they will assume you are negative.”
In the sports
world, college might actually be too late to make changes. Social media can
factor into whether an athlete is even offered a scholarship.
designate a member of each team’s coaching staff to monitor the social media
channels of athletes. But the sheer volume of several hundred athletes per
school makes it nearly impossible to keep up with everything.
Many schools have
presentations early in the school year to educate students about the
importance of being smart about social media. North Carolina brings in
Derrick Mayes, a former NFL player and co-founder of 5.0 Communications, for
“scared straight” seminars to athletes.
reputation of your university, of your program is judged by what a teenager
is doing on social media, the more that you can do to try to minimize those
surprises, the better for everybody,” North Carolina spokesman Steve
athletes and average Joes alike scrub their accounts once a year like a
spring cleaning, leaving nothing to chance. And to use social media in a
“Be authentic,” she
said. “Define your brand and values. And then, you put out your content.”
Even better to make
smart decisions to begin with so there’s no situation to fix, said Purdue
spokesman Tom Schott. “Once you put it out there, regardless of what you
think you’ve deleted, it’s probably going to be out there in some form or
fashion,” he said.