Lessons from Donte DiVincenzo’s viral for all the wrong reasons tweet
Monday night, Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo put on a show for the ages at the Final Four. He came off the bench to score 31 points and give Villanova their second national championship in three years. It was and is an incredible story about DiVincenzo, about Villanova and the culture Jay Wright has build, and the value of believing in yourself and taking advantage of your moment.
Every article and question regarding the game should have been focused on DiVincenzo’s story and that of his teammates. But, as you may be aware, that was not the focus of every story or every post game question. After the game, while meeting with the media, a reporter asked a question about an offensive tweet that DiVincenzo sent in 2011. Seven years ago, before he was on Villanova’s roster and before he could even drive, he sent a tweet quoting rap lyrics that included a racial slur. As the night and game went on, more tweets surface. From profanity to racial slurs to sexually inappropriate posts.
There is a question of whether or not this is even worthy of a story. Why did the media bring it up? Why did they spring it on him now? Why are they stooping this low just for clicks? I get it. I don’t think it’s worthy of a story, but we don’t get to decide what the media determines is or is not a story. We can disagree with it, but it doesn’t change the fact that they asked the question and made it into a story. That’s the reality of the media world we’re living in.
“No, I didn’t tweet that,” was DiVincenzo’s response after the game. To his credit, he has not tweeted since 2016 (after the game and story broke, he deleted his account). And none of us remembers what we were doing 7 years ago, let alone what we were tweeting. And “communications expert” is not a phrase used to describe many 14 year olds. He had a phone with keys to the internet and didn’t realize who was reading, that it would never go away, and that, on the biggest night of his life, he would not only be answering questions about basketball but questions about his character.
So what does all this mean for student-athletes and administrators? A few things.
1. Social Media education isn’t optional. We’re past that. It’s 2018 and we have young people (and old people) posting without any thought of who is reading it, what impact it has not only their present but their future. College isn’t too late but it does need to start earlier. Even with that, athletic departments must make it a priority. Once the student-athlete signs with a school, the reality is they now represent that school. Don’t hope they use social media well, be intentional to provide education and tools for them to be successful. Prepare them for the platform they now have.
2. One of the challenges we discuss with social media is that, the pressure is there to share what you’re doing right now. Every platform forces us to be captive to the moment. Share what you’re doing right now, thinking right now, seeing right now, listening to right now. We hit SEND and within minutes, all context is gone. How will this post be viewed a month from now? 6 months? A year? In the case of DiVincenzo, seven years? Of course he isn’t the person today that he was at 14. People grow, mature, learn and change. Certainly he has. And that’s a great story to tell. “You know what, I was an idiot at 14 – like most people. I don’t remember sending that but I probably did. Thank goodness I’ve matured from that person into the leader I am today.” That would have been a great response in the moment. Moving forward, student-athletes (and all of us) need to consider how a post will reflect on us in the future. What’s funny or cool to friends now may be offensive and inappropriate to a hiring manager (or coach) in 2 years. We have to think long term.
3. As has been noted, DiVincenzo posted this well before he ever stepped foot on Villanova’s campus. The internet is a digital tattoo, and what we do stays with us. Many use this as an argument for using Snapchat because pictures disappear. Simply put, that’s not true. And the focus should be on using social media well. We talk with high school programs often about how coaches vet recruits and employers vet candidates online before signing/hiring them. Did this one slip through the cracks? Not necessarily. Most coaches and employers are not going to scroll back through years and years of posts. But there is an argument to be made that once they’re on campus, we should do a quick audit of their public profiles to find and delete any inappropriate posts. Most of the inappropriate posts we find from student-athletes today aren’t recent (they’ve moved most of that to Snapchat and we’re not going to follow them there). They’re older posts that got ignored. Like DiVincenzo, they may have stopped using Twitter or Facebook. Still, the posts don’t disappear once we stop using a platform. And posts from high school and middle school are still there with the posts we make today.
On Twitter, doing an audit is as simple as doing a search for “@username [inappropriate word]” and you’ll get a list of all of your posts with that word. And it’s free. There are also a number of free and paid apps that will help with this. On Facebook it’s similar. Do a search for an inappropriate word or phrase and select “Posts by You” for the filter. Student-athletes should do audits on their own accounts, but schools can also help. Everyone is busy, but it’s worth it. 10-15 minutes could prevent a situation like DiVincenzo faced.
At the end of the day, this didn’t have to happen. He could’ve been educated and made a better decision when he was 14. He could’ve been vetted more closely by Villanova (and other schools that recruited him). He could’ve done a Twitter audit on himself. Someone at the school could have helped him. The reporter could have chosen it’s a non-story. But it did happen. It’s not the first time (see: Larry Nance Jr and Bobby Portis on draft day) and it will continue to happen. It’s on us to make sure we’re doing everything we can to prepare our student-athletes for success, not just on the court, field or classroom, but also online.
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 130 schools utilizing our services for their athletics department, contact us today.