The Miami Dolphins have been making headlines, and once again, it’s not because of their on-field performance.
As Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL, he kissed his partner on national TV – in much the same fashion as countless heterosexual players did on Draft Day.
Miami Dolphins players Don Jones and Mike Pouncey quickly took to Twitter, sending inflammatory tweets that got the former fined and suspended, and the forced the latter to delete his Twitter profile altogether the social media network altogether.
The Dolphins’ image has been struggling for quite a while now, with feeble progress made after last year’s locker room bullying controversy.
“Look at the Dolphins as a major corporation whose reputation has been tarnished due to one fiasco after another,” explained Tadd Schwartz in a recent Miami Herald story. “It gets to a point where the brand is damaged beyond repair.”
The team has taken measures to disassociate itself from its players’ off-field actions, but we at Soundbytes couldn’t help but wonder: why are professional sports teams breeding grounds for intolerance these days – and what can be done to prevent this?
Like it or not, athletes are public figures and role models who live their lives in society’s view. Much like a corporate executive or director, what they say on social media will – and should – be scrutinized.
While some teams have implemented sensitivity training for their players, it hasn’t been enough. The easy answer is for teams to task individual players with the responsibility of determining what is and isn’t suitable for public consumption (we’re talking about adult professionals, after all). But off-setting this burden to players turns a blind eye to the simple fact that players are ambassadors for their teams and the league as a whole.
Perhaps teams should require players run through a gambit of intensive social media training. Maybe they should be required to abstain from social media altogether (they’re already barred from using drugs and alcohol – and nighttime curfews are not uncommon). Maybe it will take a player losing his or her job as a result of their actions. The options are endless, but clearly something must be done.
What about you, Soundbytes readers? What do you think sports teams should do?