By: Zachary Schwehm
Social media consumes the lives of many young Americans, and athletes have long been attached to that as well. The talents of all professional athletes are shown on a global scale. When a team in Major League Baseball wins the World Series, people all around the world are watching and sharing it all across Twitter and Instagram within seconds. Both teams and their athletes have millions of followers, making it possible for their posts to reach heights that nobody could have predicted possible 20 years ago.
Cristiano Ronaldo, a Portuguese soccer player currently has the most followers of any single person on Instagram with 204 million followers. He is also the only Instagram user with an account that has surpassed 200 million followers so far. Athletes at that level use their platforms not only for sharing about their sport; but also sharing about their families, where they are traveling, and posting commercials and advertisements of their sponsors. Another globally known soccer star, Lionel Messi who currently plays in Barcelona, shared a Spanish Pepsi commercial he was in and it got nearly five million views in 24 hours. Athletes with large followings, especially when promoting during sporting events can bring a large amount of attention and generate a lot of sales for that brand.
Athletes have also been using social media to reach out during serious events. In January, when basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi Bryant tragically passed away in a helicopter accident, social media halted and everything turned to Kobe. Athletes from all around the world took to Twitter and Instagram to share their personal stories about Kobe and weren’t shy about displaying their emotions in a public setting. That event changed the perspective on how some athletes are viewed both on and off the field. Some athletes have a stigma of being larger than life and have the appearance of being on top of the world, but their postings about Kobe and other social issues showed the lighter side of them. It makes them human.
Getting shared on social media has also gotten athletes in trouble in the past. Lebron James, a professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, talked in an interview about his teammates being “distracted”. This came at a bad time for James because at that time his upcoming movie “Space Jam 2” was being just being announces. This negative attention was the last thing he needed. This is an example of how even athletes are under the spotlight for things they say and post, no matter how small. The younger generations get told what they can and cannot post for how it might affect future career options. The fact that professional athletes are under the same spotlight as that generation is remarkable. Every person in their respected sport is under pressure to keep a clean image and to keep out of the news for any unnecessary acts. All press is not necessarily good press for sports franchises and anything that’s on social media is there forever. A player may be able to delete the post minutes after it goes up, but thousands are able to save the post and have it forever. The aftermath of what can happen from saying something wrong on twitter in this day and age could be career-threatening.
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