Laremy Tunsil, the NFL Draft, and social media lessons for student athletes
A video posted to the Twitter account of NFL prospect and former Ole Miss football player Laremy Tunsil cost him anywhere from $7-12 million dollars. The video, posted just minutes before the NFL draft started, showed what was believed to be Tunsil smoking weed through a gas mask bong.
As the video circulated across the Twittersphere, Tunsil watched as, pick after pick, his name was not called. The Ravens, who were in the market for an offensive tackle, passed with the 6th pick. Just a few weeks ago, several outlets had Tunsil as the top overall pick. Last night he dropped to 13th with the Miami Dolphins. As that was happening, his night took another turn for the worse, as pictures posted to his Instagram account showed alleged texts between Tunsil and an Ole Miss staffer, arranging payments for Tunsil’s bills – an NCAA violation.
To his credit, Tunsil handled the initial situation well. When asked about the video, he acknowledged it was real but that it was from several years ago and that someone had hacked his Twitter account to post it. He said the same of his Instagram account, that it had been hacked. He said the Dolphins are getting a “great man” and that he would show everyone what type of person he is, despite his mistakes. Both social media accounts were deleted.
There are a few takeaways from this as it relates to student-athletes and social media.
First, Laremy Tunsil is human. It’s easy to lose sight of that as he becomes click-bait fodder, but he is a human. He is 21 years old. Rather than scorn, he deserves support.
Tunsil has made mistakes in life, mistakes that he has owned up to. In that way, he’s no different than any of us. If you think back to your high school and college life, there are a number of things you probably regret doing. Thankfully, those mistakes were not recorded and shared to the internet. And that’s a key issue here.
Student-athletes are going to live their life, they are going to try new things. (note: we are not in any way encouraging drug use, NCAA violations or any other inappropriate activities) We also know that, in 2014, 22% of college athletes acknowledged using marijuana in the past 12 months. That said, not everything in life is worth documenting. We live in a social media age where we share and overshare. And while Tunsil never intended for this video to be online, the decision to record it (and, of course, the decision to do illegal drugs) made it possible.
Another issue here for Tunsil was the claim that he was hacked. Hacking implies that someone had unauthorized access to your accounts. It’s certainly possible that happened here but highly unlikely. More likely is someone had access to his passwords (either he gave them the passwords or he did a poor job of hiding them). Someone who he had clearly made upset and had viciously been planning these posts at just the right time to destroy what should’ve been one of the happiest nights of Tunsil’s life. It’s terribly unfortunate but shows the need to protect your accounts. For student-athletes, nobody should have access to your accounts but you. Period. And always, always use 2-factor authentication.
A popular sentiment online was that this was the perfect example of why athletes shouldn’t use social media. ESPN’s Jon Gruden, who doesn’t use social media, said, “If you’re a young kid out there, put away your Twitter accounts, alright? If you want to be a pro football player. Somebody’s going to hack your account. Somebody’s going to cause some problems. You’ve got to be a reliable person to stand up here on the stage and be a first-round draft choice.”
Gruden’s stance is unreasonable and uninformed. 97% of college athletes use social media. It is integrated into every phase of their lives and that’s reality in 2016. But social media isn’t responsible for what people post on social media.
Twitter is not responsible for Laremy Tunsil smoking marijuana through a gas mask bong. Twitter is not responsible for that activity being recorded. Twitter is not responsible for someone posting that video to Twitter. Instagram is not responsible for the alleged texts between Tunsil and the Ole Miss staffer. Instagram is not responsible for someone posting screenshots of those texts to Instagram. We all make choices in life, both online and offline. We choose how we act and we choose what we post. Social Media is not responsible for those choices.
Social Media is a tool. A very, very powerful tool. A tool that student-athletes can use in valuable, meaningful way or a tool they can use recklessly. Laremy Tunsil is, without a doubt, an incredibly talented football player. Hopefully he goes on to have a long, successful career in the NFL. And hopefully he’s learned the value of not only using social media with purpose, but of guarding your accounts to help protect your reputation.
Fieldhouse Media is an award-winning firm dedicated to helping athletics departments get the most out of their social media efforts, from educating student-athletes and staff to providing an overall strategy. To find out more about us or to join the more than 95 schools utilizing our services for their athletics department, contact us today.