As great of a tool as Twitter is for athletes to connect with their fans, there is no question that it can also lead to self-destruction if handled improperly. Greek Olympic triple-jumper Voula Papachristou is a prime example of that, as she was removed from the London Games due to a racist tweet.
Papachristou was set to make her Olympic debut for Greece, but that will no longer happen because of her Twitter tirade, according to Demetris Nellas of the Associated Press. The main tweet in question, which was written in Greek, made light of mosquitoes that are apparently carrying West Nile virus in Greece.
It said: "With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food!!!"
As egregious as that was, Papachristou also posted several tweets in support of Golden Dawn, which is an extreme right political party in Greece that recently has infiltrated Greek Parliament, according to Nellas.
Papachristou apologized for her remarks, but the damage had already been done, as the Hellenic Olympic Committee removed her from the Greek team as a result of her failing to live up to Olympic values. It may seem like a harsh move to some, but Papachristou's comments were extremely inappropriate, so action had to be taken.
It wouldn't be fair to speculate whether or not Papachristou is actually racist, but this entire situation should serve as a warning shot to athletes across the globe. Papachristou may have very well been trying to be funny or lighthearted when she sent that tweet, but humor and sarcasm rarely come across well in social media.
Papachristou is far from the first athlete to get herself in trouble on Twitter, and she certainly won't be the last.
Twitter doesn't have any filters, and many athletes lack one as well. That is clearly the case when it comes to Papachristou, and because she wasn't careful and mindful of what she was saying, her Olympic dreams have been dashed.
Twitter is absolutely fantastic in terms of giving athletes a platform to discuss their athletic exploits and offer a glimpse into their everyday lives. Two things that should generally be left alone, however, are racial issues and politics. Papachristou broke both golden rules in one fell swoop, so it's difficult to feel too sorry for her when you consider the stupidity of her actions.
Greece has since banned its athletes from tweeting about anything other than issues related to the Olympics until the Games have concluded, according to Nellas. It's not as if Greek wants to turn into some sort of authoritative state, but it made the right decision in this instance.
Some people simply can't be trusted to handle social media with intelligence and cognizance, so it is best to limit the privilege for the time being.
It's a shame that one bad apple ruined things for everyone, but at least Papachristou's banishment from the Olympics should serve as a wake-up call to all athletes. Rather than posting an off-color remark for the whole world to see, we can only hope that these athletes will take the time to think of the repercussions, as well as who they may offend.
I'm sure Papachristou regrets her actions in a big way, and I doubt that she can see any silver lining at this point, but perhaps she can take solace in knowing that her terrible mistake may stop others from doing something similar in the future.
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