Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Athletes need to think before they tweet. Yeah, right.

There are a lot of things you can do with 140 characters. You can tweak one of the best-known players in the history of your sport. You can go off on a racist, offensive rant about people in your country. You can go on a racist, offensive rant about people from other countries.

And that's just after the first three full days of the Olympic Games in London.

Let's recap, shall we?

First, Hope Solo, the erstwhile America's Darling, morphed into a tweet twit when she called out NBC commentator Brandi Chastain for her analysis during an early-round U.S. women's soccer match in London. Solo thought Chastain was, well, chastising Team USA's play a little too vigorously, saying Chastain should stop criticizing Solo's and the Americans' play "until you get more educated."

"Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game@brandichastain!"

This is the same Chastain who only scored the most significant goal in U.S. women's soccer history to win the 1999 World Cup and raise the sports bra to the national consciousness.

Then there's the case of Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachristou, who on the eve of the biggest moment of her life -- competing in the Olympics -- chose to make a "joke" loosely related to the Greek Olympic team being away for a couple of weeks:

"With so many Africans in Greece ... At least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!!!"

Stay classy, Athens. This from an athlete representing a country regarded as the home of the modern Olympics. The Greek Olympic Committee made its own subsequent statement, kicking Papachristou off the team "for statements contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement."

The die had clearly been cast, a warning shot across the bow to any other tormented soul in the Olympic Village who might have been thinking about casting similar aspersions toward some other religious, ethnic or opinion-impaired group or person.

But Michel Morganella, a soccer player from Switzerland  -- Switzerland! -- didn't get the memo.

After a 2-1 loss to South Korea, in the true Olympic spirit of sportsmanship, Morganella took to his Twitter feed and banged out this gem, a rough translation courtesy of deadspin.com:

"I will smash all the Koreans, go burn all of you, bunch of retards."

The Swiss have never been to war in their history, but there's a first time for everything.

Olympic athletes aren't alone in their ignorance. Amar'e Stoudemire of the Knicks got into hot water last season for making an anti-gay slur in response to a criticizing fan. Rio Ferdinand, who plays for Manchester United, recently was disciplined by the Football Association for a racially-insensitive tweet toward an opponent. And on and on.

But there is hope the insanity can be stopped. Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis -- who had to deal with the antics of the twitter-happy artist formerly known as Chad Ochocinco -- has banned his team from tweeting during training camp, a move other teams in the NFL and other sports should take notice of.

"I don't see how tweeting is going to help us win a football game," Lewis told Yahoo! Sports. "It's not best for our football team to be involved in that. It's best that we just take care of ourselves and not announce what we're doing or not doing, or who did this or who did that, and commenting on what's going on in other sports. Let's be football players."

Or at the very least, think, and look both ways before crossing the tweet.

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