Go to contents

Star athletes and social networking sites

Posted June. 11, 2013 07:35,   


“If you don’t like it, why don’t you go and play?”

Six years ago, a soccer player of an Olympic national team had in deep trouble after posting it on his website. The Korean people were angry about the poor play (0-0 tie) of the national team at the final qualifying match for the 2008 Beijing Olympics against Uzbekistan, the 18-year-old player, the youngest in the team, caused the trouble. As many as 190,000 people visited his website, and web portals were flooded with criticism. Eventually, he had to make an official apology in one day.

Again, the player was recently in the center of a gossip. He wrote on his Twitter, “A leader should be silent and should be able to embrace others. One cannot be qualified as a leader if one makes everybody an enemy.” He later explained that he posted some of a sermon but the situation could understandably create controversy. He posted it after he was excluded from the entry list of the national team for the final three qualifying matches in Asia for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

Many of the soccer community and Internet users said, “He seemed to have targeted the coach. The timing was bad.” There is a saying in Korea that one should not tie a hat string under a plum tree (meaning one should not do something that could be misunderstood by others). It is sorry for him because he is a renowned star athlete who needs no noise marketing. As I did not want him, now a key player of Korean soccer, to be affected, I did not identify his name. Of course, a soccer fan would easily figure out who he is.

Social networking services have a lot of advantages. They are powerful because they enable people to communicate real time beyond borders with numerous other people. A classic example is Twitter, which contributed to the collapse of the dictatorship in Tunisia. But they have disadvantages as well since rumors spread in a blink of an eye through them. If false or wrong information is spread, the impact could be tremendous. Responding to social networking sites on a whim leads to unintended consequences.

Both celebrities and athletes live on popularity. The former is far better than the latter in dealing with criticism on the Internet. Lee Moon-won, a cultural critique, said, “Athletes are like any other ordinary people. Celebrities think slanders on the Internet are part of the public’s attention and try to focus on their image. But athletes who are not trained to do so are more sensitive than celebrities.” Kim Heon-shik, another cultural critique, said, “The general public expects star athletes to be naive. That is why they have higher expectations and use a higher standard to them. If an athlete fails to meet the expectation, the athlete will be under a concentrated fire.”

In fact, many star athletes are reeling from the side effects of social networking sites. Wayne Rooney of the Manchester United caused controversy. When someone criticized him on Twitter, he quickly responded, saying, “I`ll put u asleep within 10 seconds.” Usain Bolt, a Jamaican sprinter, caused misunderstanding after posting his picture with a background of several T-shirts of an apparel company that encourages marijuana on Instagram. For a while ago, an interviewer was doused with water while interviewing a professional baseball player in Korea. The incident was further spread through social networking sites.

Lee Westwood, a professional golfer, lamented on an interview, saying, “Social networking sites are social media, not social garbage. They seem to have lost their role and meaning.” Sir Alex Ferguson, who retired his position as a Manchester United coach last month, said, “I don’t know why players waste time on Twitter. It’s better to read books.”

In an absolute monarchy, a wrong word could take one’s life away. In a paradise of social networking sites, an imprudent posting on Twitter or Facebook can blow one away. One should be careful about not only words from a mouth but also words on social networking sites if one does not want to ruin one’s achievements. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to think for 10 minutes or an hour before responding to a sensitive issue?