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Maybe more athletes should stay off Twitter

Don't press send!

That's what former NFL head coach Herm Edwards says.

The coach-turned-ESPN-analyst speaks to incoming NFL rookies each year and talks about his dream of inventing a smart phone that would be smart enough to replace the "send'' button with a "don't press send'' button.

"So when you tweet all that stuff out and you get ready to send it out, it will say, oh, Don't Press Send,'' Edwards tells the rookies. "That's so you can think about what you're getting ready to press.''

Far too many athletes these days are pushing send before thinking about what they are saying.

If I ran a pro sports team, or even a college program, I would forbid my athletes from using Twitter. And this is just a guess, but you watch: In the not-so-distant future, practically every pro and college team in the country will prohibit its players from using the social media site.

It has become too dangerous and simply not worth the risk for teams to endure the public embarrassment of reprimanding then apologizing for players who can't help but have a brain cramp in fewer than 140 characters.

First of all, let's get one thing straight: As a sportswriter, I love that athletes use Twitter. It lets all of us know what they are thinking and doing, although I believe I would sleep just fine without the knowledge that Redskins backup quarterback Kirk Cousins thinks Home Alone is a great movie. (Yeah, he really did tweet that.)

I, especially, love that many who use Twitter don't have that edit chip between their brains and their fingers. I love that they press "send'' without thinking.

Most of the time, it's harmless stuff.

Like the time Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones tweeted:

Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS

It's sad and maybe even a bit insightful to see the honest feelings of college athletes, as well as their total lack of grammar skills. But, ultimately, no harm is being done here.

Same as when Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel — who, by the way, seems intent on becoming the Lindsay Lohan of college football — tweeted:

(Expletive) like tonight is a reason why I can't wait to leave college station...whenever it may be.

Often times, Twitter is used to criticize someone or start a feud, such as when U.S. women's soccer goalie Hope Solo was all in a huff when former U.S. women's star Brandi Chastain criticized the Americans while calling a game for ESPN. Solo tweeted:

Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team & knows more about the game

Occasionally, players will step over the line of good taste or common sense, like when Rashard Mendenhall, then with the Steelers, reacted to Americans celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden by tweeting:

What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side.

That was followed by:

We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style

Usually, within a few hours, these athletes have to send out some sort of apology that appears to have been written by someone with a college degree in public relations. It uses words like "thoughtless'' and "insensitive.'' It talks about having "regret'' then closes with the obligatory, although often insincere-sounding, "I apologize to anyone who might have been offended by my comments.''

In the past week, many athletes were swept up in the aftermath of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The Giants' Victor Cruz tweeted:

Zimmerman doesn't last a year before the hood catches up with him

Falcons wide receiver Roddy White suggested the jurors in the case should "kill themselves.''

A short time later, White tweeted:

It's crazy how people on twitter want me to get in trouble for a tweet that they are retweeting because they want something to happen thanks

Eventually, Cruz and White apologized for their remarks, saying they were made hastily in reaction to being stunned by Zimmerman being found not guilty.

Fair enough.

Yet, virtually every ill-advised, apologetic or just plain dumb tweet typed out by an athlete is the result of a hastily slapped-together response to subjects that are probably best left alone. There are people who write for a living who don't make anything public until it is read by several editors, yet athletes will send out something without even reading it back themselves.

While it's certainly Cruz's right to talk about the Zimmerman trial and while Mendenhall is entitled to have an opinion on bin Laden, they shouldn't confuse freedom of speech with freedom from consequences. Sometimes it's just better to say nothing.

Or, in other words, you can never go wrong by following these three words:

Don't Press Send.

Maybe more athletes should stay off Twitter 07/16/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 10:34pm]
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