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Social Media Lessons from the 2012 Olympics

Stupid tweets can get you fired, especially when you’re an Olympic athlete

Posted by Dawn Lomer on July 31st, 2012

Even before the Olympics got under way, stupid tweets were getting people into trouble, starting with British MP Aidan Burley, who denounced the opening ceremony as “leftie multicultural crap” on Twitter. London Mayor Boris Johnson was quick to criticize Burley’s tweets, which included:

The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen – more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?

Burley insisted he had been misunderstood, but as we all know, you can’t take back things you post on social media.

Racist Rant

And Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was dropped from the Olympic team last week after she posted the following tweet mocking African immigrants:

With so many Africans in Greece… the West Nile mosquitoes will at least eat homemade food!!!

The Greek Olympic Committee said she was being pulled from the team because her comments were against the Olympic spirit. “She showed no respect for a basic Olympic value and unfortunately she is out,” Greek mission chief Isidoros Kouvelos told a Greek TV station.

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While the International Olympic Committee has encouraged the 10,800 athletes at the London Games to communicate with fans through social media, they also issued guidelines on the standards of behavior expected when using social media:

Postings, blogs and tweets should at all times conform to the Olympic spirit and fundamental principles of Olympism as contained in the Olympic Charter, be dignified and in good taste, and not contain vulgar or obscene words or images.

Angry Outbursts

Perhaps US women’s soccer player Hope Solo should have read those guidelines. She met with the coach and captains of the team on Sunday to discuss her latest outburst on Twitter criticizing former US player Brandi Chastain’s commentary during the NBC broadcast of the Americans’ 3-0 win over Colombia on Saturday.

And now Switzerland soccer player Michel Morganella has been expelled from the Olympics for allegedly sending a racist message on Twitter. Swiss Olympic committee spokesman Christof Kaufmann told The Associated Press that the team chief is considering the case against the 23-year-old defender. Morganella posted an offensive tweet about South Koreans after the Swiss team lost 2-1 to South Korea on Sunday.

Ill-Advised Affiliation

And not to be outdone by the northern hemisphere, Australian swimmers Nick D’Arcy and Kenrick Monk  were banned from using social media in June. They will be sent home immediately after their Olympic events as punishment for posting photos of themselves toting firearms on Twitter and Facebook. Anti-gun groups in Australia roundly criticized the social media postings and the 24-year-old swimmers apologized and removed them. But the damage was done.

If Olympic athletes were considered to be employees of their teams they might escape harsh penalties, but without the NLRB to rule on any disciplinary action taken as a result of social media posts, athletes had better start thinking before they post.

Dawn Lomer
Dawn Lomer

Manager of Communications

Dawn Lomer is the Manager of Communications at i-Sight Software and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She writes about topics related to workplace investigations, ethics and compliance, data security and e-discovery, and hosts i-Sight webinars.

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