Friday, December 9, 2011

Freedom of Speech, not in today's world

As we move ever so closer to 2012 and find ourselves fully entrenched in the world of social media, you better watch what you say; especially if you are a public figure. Never was this more clearly evident then on Thursday evening when UFC President Dana White reported that former World Extreme Cagefighting champion and current UFC bantamweight contender Miguel Torres had been cut from the roster. The reason was an inappropriate message from his twitter handle.

Torres, who is one of the more popular MMA fighters with fans, especially when it comes to twitter, made the mistake of tweeting the following, “If a rape van was called a surprise van more women wouldn’t mind going for rides in them.” That post was subsequently removed and replaced with, “If a windowless van was a called a surprise van more people wouldn’t mind going for rides in them. Everyone likes surprises.” Too late the damage was done; as if the latter post was any better.

Miguel Torres has been known to have a unique sense of humor. I personally got a chance to experience some of that humor when I got to meet and speak to him a little in May 2010. It is a quick hitting, no holds barred type of humor that would’ve made him perfect for the ‘70’s when TV shows like ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Sanford and Son’, could and would freely use language that cannot fly today. Considering the Redd Foxx shirt he had on in our photo above, it all makes sense.

Unfortunately, it’s not 1973 and we’re not in the 20th century. It’s nearly 2012, it’s the politcially correct 21st century and certain things just can’t be said; or in the case of the UFC, shouldn’t be said. Dana White implores his fighters to tweet to the masses, even going so far as to reward those that communicate with original and witty remarks. A year ago, he may have even just given Torres a slap on the wrist for this latest slip of the tweet. However, things are different now.

The UFC recently signed a major television deal with the FOX network that will make the brand and sport mainstream in 2012. Thus, what may have just ruffled White’s feathers a year ago, downright plucked them today. Torres was clearly wrong in his judgment, but he was also a casualty because of the business circles the UFC is in these days.

Fighters and employees of the company now have to readjust their thinking to a more corporate mindset before speaking; which brings me to former UFC light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. On Wednesday, one entire day before the Torres error in judgment, Evans too spoke before thinking. This one was live at a press conference promoting his January fight; on FOX no less, against fellow contender Phil Davis.

Evans, who wrestled collegiately at Michigan State threw a verbal jab at Davis, who wrestled at fellow Big Ten rival Penn State by saying, “I’m going to put my hands on you worse than that dude did them other kids at Penn State.” The comment was obviously referencing the charges of child molestation against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. Not necessarily the best choice of words considering the nature and sensitivity of the crime in question.

Yet, unlike the Torres reaction, White’s response was simply to acknowledge that it was a stupid comment and that Evans was doing it in the heat of promoting a fight. Could it be that Torres’s mistake was not so much what he said, but when he said it? One has to wonder if White after feeling the heat of having to downplay the Evans remark, felt compelled to take drastic measures upon hearing about the Torres fiasco. Things that make you go hmmmmm?

Another case closer to home where a twitter mistake came with a price is the one made by Lehigh University All-American wide receiver Ryan Spadola. On the eve of Lehigh’s quarterfinal matchup against North Dakota in the College Football Sub-division Tournament, Spadola has been suspended for a tweet he sent before last Saturday’s opening round game against Towson. The sad part here is the tweet did not even originate with him.

The tweet, which referenced the Towson student body and contained a racial slur, was originally posted by a friend of Spadola’s. However, the mistake by the receiver was made when he decided to retweet it; thus, in essence he made it his. The NCAA got wind of it and tomorrow in what is the biggest game so far of his collegiate career, the junior wide receiver has to pay the price for his actions.

These incidents are just the latest of athletes, professional and amateur, who have made the mistake of speaking without thinking things through; especially when it comes to twitter. Usually not a day goes by anymore without hearing of some athlete’s downright dumb twitter comment, usually responding to something they should just stay clear of. Freedom of speech does not necessarily translate to say whatever you think; especially not in today’s world.

1 comment:

  1. Great summary Sam which I used to assess from a lawyer's view.


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