Athletes and Social Media: Do Schools Have the Wright to Suspend?
by Matt Hundley | University of Missouri
High school senior Yuri Wright is one of the best college football prospects in the nation. The cornerback is ranked 40th on the ESPNU 150 recruiting rankings, and has offers from schools all across the country. Yuri Wright, however, might not be able to play football in college anymore.
Why, you ask? Simple: Twitter.
Wright attended New Jersey’s Don Bosco Preparatory School, a Catholic school with a strict ethical code of conduct. Wright decided to put these standards to the test on his Twitter account, where he posted explicit — both sexually graphic and racist — tweets for the public eye to see. Wright’s high school coach Greg Toal told ESPNNewYork.com, “What he wrote was pretty bad, to be honest with you, I can’t even say what he wrote.”
According to ESPN, Don Bosco Prep warned Wright about his tweets and urged him to take down his Twitter account, but he decided to continue with his actions, leaving the school no choice but to expel the senior. Wright’s actions could cost him not only his high school career but a college scholarship, as Michigan has already stopped pursuing Wright, and other schools are sure to follow.
The question now is whether or not this situation was handled in the correct way. In my opinion, Don Bosco had the right to expel Wright for his tweets — students should be held to moral conduct that Wright simply wasn’t exemplifying, and no student should represent his or her institution in the manner that Wright was. Michigan’s decision to stop recruiting Wright is understandable as well — a college wants players that will not only contribute to its athletic success, but who will uphold the necessary code of conduct. Universities cannot afford a player getting into trouble and bringing sanctions onto the school. A student-athlete is an investment for a university and it has the right to choose who it wants to invest in. I would not be surprised nor disagree with the decisions of these universities if Wright lost all of his potential scholarship offers thanks to his conduct.
I am certainly not saying that athletes such as Wright shouldn’t be allowed to have a Twitter account at all, so long as they are responsible enough to monitor it. Twitter provides athletes a great way to communicate with their fans, and when used in a positive way, this can be a fantastic promotional tool for individual athletes and universities alike. But just as colleges, and even high schools, should allow their athletes to utilize Twitter, so too should they reserve the right to determine whether postings on an account are out of line and warn their athletes to clean up their acts. If an athlete so warned decides to continue with social media that is not befitting of the university, the college should have the right to deal with the situation as it wishes and separate itself from the explicit material, in whatever manner that may be. There is nothing wrong with an athlete or student having a Twitter account, or other social media account, as long as it is not abused. Yuri Wright was not using his Twitter account in the right way, and he will rightly suffer the consequences.Matt Hundley is a NGJ Sports Correspondent and a student at the University of Missouri. He is interested in pursuing a sports journalism career.