Inappropriate Social Media Can Get Team Kicked Out of Tournaments

By Melissa Wickes
November 17, 2021
3 min

Everyone has heard the phrase “the internet is forever” at least one time in their lives. With the exponential rise of social media over the last decade, it’s more important now than ever before that we remember this: Everything you post online can come back to bite you. This is relevant when applying to colleges, jobs, scholarships, and so much more. Have you ever considered that this topic also relates to youth sports?

When used the right way, social media can help a youth athlete get seen by teams, tournaments, coaches, and even colleges. However, distasteful social media can end a young athlete’s career before it even begins.

Four years ago, a girls’ softball team (that had outscored its opponents 29-1) learned this lesson the hard way. The team—from Atlee, Virginia—was disqualified from a nationally televised championship game at the Junior League World Series after one team member posted a photo on her Snapchat of a few players that was deemed inappropriate.

What Happened With the Atlee Jr. Little League Softball Team

The team posted this photo to their team’s Snapchat account, featuring girls on the team holding up middle finger with the caption “watch out host.” (Host refers to the host team from Kirkland Washington that Atlee would have been playing). Atlee team manager Scott Currie immediately reprimanded the players who were involved in taking and posting the photo and demanded they take it down and apologize in person to their rivals. Unfortunately, it was too late.

The Consequences

Little League spokesman Kevin Fountain called Atlee’s post “inappropriate” in a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, explaining that it violated the league’s “policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct.” As you might imagine, the disqualification from the tournament generated a lot of controversy, but most speaking of it on social media at the time admitted that the post was “inexcusable.” Some, however, felt it was unfair to disqualify the entire Atlee girls softball team over the actions of six players.

Atlee’s replacement in the final game lost 7-1.

What the Youth Sports Community Had to Say

Here’s what some people said on Twitter. What do you think? Is the punishment fair or foul?

Whether you think the punishment was too harsh or just, it’s an important reminder that all players in your program(s) need to keep in mind that everyone is watching on social media. Social media is a powerful tool that can be used to help spread the word about yourself as a player, but remember that everyone—especially tournament leaders and college coaches—is watching and a distasteful post of any kind can jeopardize your chances of playing at the level you hope to.

In a more recent example, a track and field athlete named Noah Cvetnic had his scholarship from North Dakota State University revoked this past Spring because he created a series of inappropriate and offensive TikToks. The videos referenced sexual assault, mocked drug addiction, and featured racist and transphobic content.

What You Can Do If You Make a Mistake Online

“I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful words in the English language when used together. Showing remorse and owning up to your mistake can go a very long way, especially when it comes to offending someone on social media. Whether or not you meant to offend or upset someone with your post, it’s crucial to start by apologizing.

Next, learn your lesson. Be cognizant of what you post online and maybe even go back into your old posts and do a clean-up if you’ve been on social media for a while. (It can never hurt to be extra careful.) Think about this: How would you feel if one of your favorite athletes posted something that was offensive to you or your family?

Social Media Tips for Youth Athletes

Social media isn’t all bad. Youth athletes can use it to share highlight reels, statistics, accomplishments, and news coverage; Not to mention connect with colleges for recruitment opportunities. Whenever you post something online—whether it’s related to your sport or not—ask yourself these questions: Is this appropriate? Could this offend anyone? Is this sportsmanlike?

If you’re looking for tips on managing your youth sports organization’s social media, read our last entry in the Digital Playbook on Social Media Tips.