Arian Foster and the Dark Side of Social Media in Sports
The social media age has been a very interesting time for players in the National Football League.
Some players have used media like Twitter to communicate and connect with fans, while others have had problems with restraint and PR nightmares.
Got about a week left on twitter, then I'm shutting her down.— Arian Foster (@ArianFoster) March 4, 2013
The 26-year-old running back, who has nearly 375,000 followers (this author included), didn't offer a reason for leaving the site, but it could be that Foster has simply grown tired of the flak he catches for speaking his mind.
That's something that Foster has never been shy about, including this week.
Crazy thing about Espn is if you do a good deed, it rarely gets recognized. Let that same guy get a DUI, he's crucified. For weeks.— Arian Foster (@ArianFoster) March 4, 2013
That openness on Twitter, along with his sense of humor, has gotten him into trouble in the past.
Back in August of 2011, Foster took to Twitter to chastise fans who were apparently more concerned about their fantasy football teams than they were his injured hamstring.
4 those sincerely concerned, I'm doing ok & plan 2 B back by opening day. 4 those worried abt your fantasy team, u ppl are sick— Arian Foster (@ArianFoster) August 28, 2011
That tweet caused a stir in media circles about Foster's apparent disdain for fantasy football, forcing him to clarify his remarks:
It got taken out of context. I love all my fans, and if you've been following me on Twitter, you know what kind of person and human being I am, and if you know me, you know what kind of human being I am. I try to promote peace, man, because that's what I'm all about.
Just a few days later, the controversy was renewed. As Cindy Boren of The Washington Post reported at the time, Foster tweeted out an MRI of his injured hamstring along with his own diagnosis of his malady.
This is an MRI of my hamstring, The white stuff surrounding the muscle is known in the medical world as anti-awesom... tl.gd/cpmsnl— Arian Foster (@ArianFoster) August 31, 2011
A minor uproar ensued over Foster revealing what was perceived as privileged team information, which led to Foster tweeting, "If I had a ‘significant injury’ why post it? I'll be fine, it was jus[t] meant to make fun of the whole situation. Humor is lost nowadays."
Therein lies the problem that likely led to Foster closing up shop. He is one of a number of NFL players whose tweets are sometimes insightful, sometimes amusing and usually interesting.
As someone who spends a fair amount of time wandering around the Twitterverse, I've read a lot of them. Thousands of others have done the same.
However, when you're expressing yourself 140 characters at a time, it can be pretty easily misunderstood or taken out of context. And almost any time you say something online, there is bound to be someone who finds it to be bothersome and/or offensive.
And the people who don't like what you have to say are generally about nine million times more vocal than those who do.
The real shame may be that while Foster appears to be closing his Twitter account down, there are still countless other players who can't log in without seeing how far they can get their foot into their mouths.
Take former Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams wide receiver Titus Young, who tweeted himself right out of a job in the Motor City with such pearls of wisdom as, "Like I said I never been selfish but if I'm not going to get the football i don't want to play anymore," and, "Oh I'm not done, if y'all going to cut me let me go. I'm tired of the threats."
The Lions cut him all right. So did the Rams—before Young ever even stepped on the practice field for Jeff Fisher and Co.
Then there was running back Rashard Mendenhall's controversial tweets after the death of Osama bin Laden.
"I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO…"
Granted, many of these tweets, and the innumerable gaffes just like them, were made by reasonably intelligent men who then thought better of it and then deleted them.
The thing is, this is the Internet age. Once it's out there, there's no going back...ever.
And that may be the other reason why Foster decided enough was enough. If you say something stupid, you're never going to hear the end of it.
If you say something that isn't stupid, guess what? Someone won't like it, and you're never going to hear the end of it.
For that reason, I can't blame Foster for calling it a day. Especially when a few tweets create a bizarre Twitter feud between you and an over-the-hill professional wrestler with a severe case of potty mouth.
But that doesn't mean I have to like it, because at the end of the day, the Twitterverse is going to be a little less interesting without Arian Foster in it.
And that's too bad.
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