Bigger issues loom
The University of Idaho athletic department and Vandal football team has experienced its fair share of woes this season. Within the last week, Idaho terminated head coach Robb Akey’s contract and quarterback Dominique Blackman and linebacker Conrad Scheidt were dismissed for violating team rules. The Vandals’ record is a dismal 1-7 with four games remaining, and Idaho has no conference to play in next season.
It would seem UI Director of Athletics Rob Spear has more pressing worries than monitoring the lackluster football team’s adherence to the athletic department’s social media policy guidelines. However, tight end Taylor Elmo has been suspended from the team for “violating athletic department policy,” including criticizing Spear’s decision to fire Akey in a tweet which has since been deleted.
“U of idaho is stupid as hell for what they did,” he tweeted. “Fire a man to keep your own job???”
Interim head coach Jason Gesser said in Monday’s weekly news conference that Elmo’s suspension was the result of “a handful of things that started leading up to that point” and his tweet “was one of the things that kind of tipped our hand to say ‘you know what, you have to get your stuff together.’” Gesser did not expand on what the other “things” were.
Every UI student athlete signs a contract promising to follow the athletic department’s social media guidelines. If an athlete’s profile is considered inappropriate, the athletic department can punish them. Punishment can include suspension and dismissal from their respective team.
The policy includes guidelines such as posting photos, videos and comments that are of a sexual nature or posting comments, videos or posters degrading coaches or other athletic department personnel.
Elmo’s suspension is validated according to the athletic department’s social media policy, which he signed a contract to obey, regardless of the fact that it is a violation of his First Amendment right to dissent. The problem lies in the inconsistency with which the policy has been enforced.
Football players who tweet derogatory sexual remarks or photos of alcoholic beverages are also violating the athletic department’s social media policy. Tweets like that are far more offensive than Elmo’s remark, which is lost in the mass of hundreds of people criticizing Spear in the last week.
As a public figure, Spear should recognize he is subject to a higher level of scrutiny and criticism. One player’s tweet expressing his personal belief about the firing of his coach should not even register on Spear’s radar, especially when hundreds of fans are expressing the same opinion in less subtle terms.
And censoring players’ social media accounts is a petty concern in the midst of the mess that is Idaho’s football team.
Tags: Our View