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Aug 06 2016
by Madeleine Williamson

Do College Athletes Have Free Speech on Social Media?

By Madeleine Williamson - Aug 06 2016
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UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has something of a history with Instagram. Last year, he had to remove a hot tub from his dorm after posting a picture. But more serious posts have started a debate over college athletes’ free speech rights, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported yesterday.

This April, Rosen Instagrammed a picture of himself on a Trump golf course wearing an “F--- Trump” hat. Later, UCLA signed the most lucrative college sports merchandise deal ever with Under Armour. Rosen commented, “We’re still amateurs though… Gotta love nonprofits #NCAA.”

Rosen deleted his post critical of the NCAA but left up the golfing picture. UCLA head football coach Jim Mora criticized them. He said that Rosen should be more “socially responsible.”

“While we encourage and fully support freedom of speech, we ask that you be cognizant of the fact that you are representing yourself, UCLA, the athletic department and your team every time you use social media,” the UCLA student-athlete code of conduct says. 

But does expressing views on politics or the NCAA put UCLA in a negative light?

UCLA’s associate athletic director. Josh Rupprecht told The Chronicle of Higher Education that Mora was criticizing the profanity in Rosen’s Trump post. He said Mora wasn't shutting down his right to free speech. “We want them to be educated on what they actually speak out about,” he said. Some students and professors held a different view.

“If coaches continue to try to silence student-athletes during a time when our nation is facing some very critical issues, they’re simply stifling their development. Now is the prime time for athletes to comment on issues, and it would be socially irresponsible for them not to,” Emmett Gill said. 

Gill, an assistant professor at UT San Antonio, heads the Student-Athletes Human Rights Project. Some student-athletes worry about the repercussions of speaking out, Christian D. Green said. Green is a graduate student at UCLA. “These athletes are making millions of dollars for the school, which doesn’t want them to say anything negative or controversial,” he said.

What do you think about the free speech debate of student athletes?

Lead image credit: Michael Li on Flickr.

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Madeleine Williamson - DePaul University

Madeleine Williamson is a freshman at DePaul University majoring in journalism and minoring in political science and Spanish. She loves tea, stationery and exploring her new hometown of Chicago.

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