Johnson: Stamps should consider limiting Twitter use
Lewis tweet demonstrates not everyone can handle social media pitfalls
Nik Lewis should obviously be heard, not read.
A maelstrom of controversy erupted when the Calgary Stampeders star slotback revved up his laptop or phone and, for reasons only he can answer, typed this:
“I just bought OJ’s gloves on eBay. Now all I need is a white girl named Nicole.#Maybe a little too far.”
Take the first four letters of Twitter and you get the idea.
Look, Nik Lewis is a sportswriter’s dream, invariably quotable and controversial and vastly entertaining. We in the scribbling dodge wouldn’t want him any other way.
But the tweet that has him in hot water is unacceptable by even the most lax of standards.
It’s something he would never, ever utter with a tape recorder or TV camera pointed in his direction inside the locker-room following a Stamps’ practice or game. Not in a hundred lifetimes. But at home, apparently safe behind the Wizard of Oz curtain that is Twitter, where the false sense of non-accountability makes people feel invincible, beyond censure, he went over the edge.
And fell all the way to the pavement.
Nik Lewis can cry free speech, etc., etc., etc. But that’s him wearing a Calgary Stampeder jersey on his Twitter account. In where he goes and what he does and what he says, he represents the football club, which pays his wages, and for that remuneration it should at the very least expect not to have the corporate logo besmirched less than a week before the team’s most important 60 minutes of the season.
The Stampeders’ focus should be wholly directed on scheming to unseat the best team in the CFL, not penning apologies. John Hufnagel’s going to have his disapproving parent look on today and will not, you can bet the kids’ college fund, be amused in the least.
The inherent problem with Twitter as a tool, and much of social sports media and current broad-based commentary in general, is that it’s become a repository for smart-alek one-liners. Which brings us to the old, wise ‘If everyone has an opinion, no one does’ philosophy. And we’re all guilty, to a degree. Who can be the edgiest, who can be the most provocative, who can incite the most feedback. They’re the ones with the most followers. Be they chartered accounts, sous chefs, sportswriting hacks or future Hall of Fame slotbacks.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that every once in a while someone strays — or in this case, plummets — across the line of acceptable comment.
Nik Lewis can be funny and entertaining and insightful and, yes, bitingly controversial, without resorting to the sort of unacceptable comment he made on Twitter. But that sort of eyebrow-raising 140-or-less characters is what, in today’s attention-obsessed society, grabs people, what sparks re-tweets. Trouble is, he’s not sitting around having a couple pops with pals. His comments are spilling out there, into space, for a huge audience to see.
After radio host Dean Molberg’s unfortunate on-air remarks about the Saskatchewan Roughriders and now the tweet of last night, the Stamps are being forced into damage-control mode again. There are going to be livid calls to immediately suspend Lewis (mostly from west of Calgary, naturally) or fine him internally.
Call it anti-democracy if you will, but maybe it’s time for teams to cut athletes off from voicing their opinions. At least those who demonstrate they can’t be trusted to handle the responsibility —— and yes, it is that — properly.
Maybe the rants should be left for the voice recorders and the TV cameras, in front of the curtain, where they at least understand the consequences.
Maybe it’s time to take away the toys.
Maybe if professional athletes, like any of the rest of us, are going to act like juveniles, maybe they should be treated as such.
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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