Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu Is an Example of Why Athletes Should Take Care on Twitter

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 14:  Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu poses during a portrait session at the Holiday Inn, Darling Harbour on July 14, 2011 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Paul OxenburyContributor IIIOctober 4, 2011

What do you get when you have a sports star in a fit of anger, an opinion and a platform to express that opinion to thousands of people?

Answer: trouble.

Social networking website Twitter has gotten many sports stars into trouble, though none more so than Samoan rugby union player Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, who has been suspended for comments made about referee Nigel Owens.

Fuimaono-Sapolu was let off with a warning for previous comments made about Samoa’s schedule.

Fuimaono-Sapolu’s comments are crass, offensive, ill-conceived and plain untrue. The sad thing is that Fuimaono-Sapolu may have a point when talking about the way rugby’s governing bodies have treated the smaller nations, but he has totally invalidated his point by making a series of ridiculous comparisons that detract from his original point.

What is worse for him is that he could well be sacked by his club side Gloucester, and has lost the respect of many of the club's fans.

This is the problem with Twitter—there is no process whereby a player can think about what they have said. A newspaper column can be edited, as can an interview.

But comments on Twitter can be posted at any time—the worst being right after a match when passions are running high and people are not thinking straight.

Once something is posted on Twitter, it’s out there, and even if it is taken down or the person who posts it apologises, people will remember what was said originally.

This is why athletes have to take more responsibility when using social networking sites.

Like it or not, they are role models to youngsters, and just because they have the right to say something does not mean that they should. If they do say something that is either offensive—or at worst, libellous—not only does it affect the athlete, it will affect their team, their supporters and sometimes even the sport.

It is impossible to ask sports stars not to use Twitter, but with clubs and official organisations now taking a stricter line on controversial tweets, athletes should be cautious about expressing their views.

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