The new way Kentucky and Louisville are monitoring athletes' social media behavior
How Louisville and Kentucky are keeping an eye on their athletes and attempting to put out fires before any can begin. Is it right, and how many more schools are doing it? Plus: a big sample of the words that have been flagged should they be used by players online in the future.
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Someone needs to explain to me why a University of Louisville athlete cannot tweet about Guns 'n' Roses. Now.
What am I talking about? I'm talking about Mr. Brownstone.
Because the term "Mr. Brownstone" finds itself on the hundreds words-long list of no-nos for Cardinals players to tweet/post/Facebook about. (To be fair and clear, the term is a reference to heroin.) And it's not just Louisville that's earned a social media muzzle. The Courier-Journal's Mark Boxley reports that the University of Kentucky is also so diligently overlording its players on Twitter, having created a banned list of words as well. The newspaper uncovered the words/list through an open-records request. The names of the more-than 500 players have been redacted in those records.
Oddly enough, football and basketball at Louisville are the two sports not under big brother's eye. Louisville's sports information director informed me the decision to pass on monitoring ultimately fell on the head coaches. Kentucky's hoops players, however, are monitored from the moment they sign until the day they leave UK for good.
So let's be clear: Players can tweet whatever they'd like, but any time something under the database is sent out into the ether that includes a phrase or word with negative connotations to it, Kentucky and Louisville officials are alerted immediately by email. The last thing these people want is their iPhone beeping at 3:18 in the morning after some player's done something stupid -- but it's better than waking to it at 8 a.m., when someone out there has already put a megaphone behind the latest dumb tweet or Facebook post.
There are so, so many words, terms and phrases that have been coded to alert interested parties in each athletic department at the school. Many of them involve curses or crudities that prohibit republication here. But plenty don't! Here's a sampling of what's off-limits. School-specific.
Act the fool
The Kentucky list also holds nearly 370 names, most of which are either agents or people affiliated with agents/pro sports teams. Notably absent from that list is "Jeff Goodman."
Bartles and James
Milwaukee's Best Light
Weed n water
Take a hit
The sex ones are the most inappropriate; I'm able to show you not even 10 percent of the list of flagged words/terms there, including some confusing ones that sound nontoxic until you seek out the urban dictionary definition. The Louisville list also includes 73 acronyms for slang that are eyebrow-raising. BYOB and AK-47 being two recognizable ones for the everyman.
This monitoring is part of the deal when agreeing to play at either university. Wear our threads, we get to see what you're saying online at all times. One company put in charge of auto-tracking the unfiltered is called "Centrix Social." That's what Kentucky uses. Louisville uses UDiligence -- and again, none of the football and basketball players are scanned, while all UK athletes tweet/post under invisible supervision.
The Courier-Journal reports red-flag words are tracked on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and MySpace, though I must be missing something there because seriously: MySpace? That's not even worth a ten-cent joke anymore.
The University of Louisville flags 406 words or slang expressions that have to do with drugs, sex, or alcohol. The University of Kentucky flags a similar number, of which 370 are sports agents’ names.
The words range from the seemingly innocuous “pony” — a euphemism for crack cocaine — and “panties,” to all manner of alcoholic drinks and sexual expressions usually heard on the street.
UK also flags “Muslim” and “Arab” — though after being questioned about it by The Courier-Journal the school said it will no longer do so.
It also goes from the inoccuous to the serious. Players can put themselves, their teams, their coaches, programs and schools in a really bad light by tweeting/posting some stupid stuff. Boxley reported recent examples, as well as including other schools who've implemented the cyber watchdog tactic.
One student posted on March 26: “I have some OxyContin. It will make you feel good. #drugs,” records show. Another posted: “I thought I found the girl of my dreams at the strip club.” Another recalled a night of drinking: “I don’t remember last night, but my credit card statement says I had a kick-ass time.”
One student was flagged for writing, “God is the only one who can heal me, help me & fight for me” — because the “fight” was used in the post.
Other universities that use UDiligence, according to company information online, include LSU, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, Utah State, Texas A&M, Texas, Baylor, University of Florida, New Mexico and Missouri.
Socialverse clients include Auburn, Mississippi State and South Carolina, according to a press release from Centrix Social.
This is interesting because, as the story notes, California is currently in the midst of possibly pushing through legislation to prevent colleges and the like from monitoring social media. California isn't Kentucky, but who knows if this becomes something that gets really constitutional really fast.
Should universities have the right to watch and punish what their athletes are saying? Some think this threatens a person's rights, but here we've got things being stated in public forums. It's akin to a basketball player grabbing a megaphone at a rally and yelling out racist epithets. Or a player saying something regrettable to reporters after a game. It's all public and it's all on the table for reprimand.
This also brings to mind the debate over coaches making players shut down their Twitter accounts in-season -- or at least not tweet from them. Some think it's unfair. Others say it's a reasonable request. Some coaches need to have that control while others recognize they can't nor shouldn't be dominating that much of their players' lives when they're away from the gym.
With more access and avenues for players to voice their opinions, universities see a responsibility to protect themselves from the players -- and the protect the players from themselves, too. I can't help but think merely acknowledging this this brine for the bawdy is there has already made players think twice about what they say once they pull up Twitter or Facebook.
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