CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- "It's scary how much trouble you can get in,” said Mason Sledge. “You have to watch yourself.”
The Charlotte 49ers’ offensive lineman isn't talking about alcohol or drugs. He's talking about something most college students have easy access to: social media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great for promoting a new program like the Charlotte football team. They also have their drawbacks.
“We had an incident with Austin Duke one time when he got upset about getting a parking ticket. And he tweeted something out about he didn't like UNC Charlotte,” remembered head coach Brad Lambert, “He wasn't really mad at the school. You are mad at someone else over your mistake, but when you hit send it’s out there.”
It wasn’t always like this. In the beginning, writers came to games and talked to players afterward. Contests were televised, and thus began the push for pre- and postgame interviews but fans still wanted more. Writers started coming to every practice, and with the advent of the internet and smart phones, everyone became a citizen journalist. Now it’s only a matter of time before a player’s private indiscretion shows up on the 6 o’clock news or goes worldwide on YouTube.
“You can’t just post anything, because there are a lot of eyes looking at you,” said freshman running back Alan Barnwell.
To eliminate future problems the 49ers took matters into their own hands. Instead of banning players from using Twitter and Facebook, the school brought in a social media specialist. They educated the players and put down some ground rules. The first is obvious.
“What’s in our locker room stays in our locker room,” smiles coach Lambert.
“If you are in a picture and you have bottles behind you or drugs,” said freshman running back Kalif Phillips, ”You will get put in that category like you had something to do with it.”
Alan Barnwell had the best advice when he said, “If you wouldn't say it to your grandma, don’t tweet it. It’s about that simple.”