Some of the biggest stories of this season’s NFL playoffs have branched from athletes’ posts on social media.
When athletes post the wrong thing, the public will critique it to no end.
The first example of this came when Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. posted a picture on social media of him on Justin Bieber’s yacht in Miami. He was accompanied by teammate Victor Cruz, among others.
Once the picture was posted, the public tore it apart. It was posted on Monday, Jan. 2, the day after the Giants finished the regular season. It was the team’s day off, but with the playoffs to prepare for the following Sunday, not all fans appreciated it.
The post was scrutinized on talk radio shows. Why does Beckham Jr. need to post this? Why isn’t he preparing for the playoffs? Are there drugs on the boat? Why, why, why?
Others concluded that it was their day off, and that the only difference between what Beckham Jr. did that day that stood out from how every other player on the team took their day off was that he posted it and showed it to the world.
He eventually deleted it.
Athletes are allowed to use social media and post about their day off any way they please, but it creates a target for the public to shoot at if that player does not perform in the next game.
That Sunday, the Giants lost to the Packers 38-13 in the Wild Card game. Neither Cruz nor Beckham Jr. had an overly impactful game, and Becham Jr. insisted that there was no way to correlate the boating escapade to the loss.
But people did anyway.
Now, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been in the news for using Facebook Live in the locker room after Pittsburgh’s 18-16 playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 15.
Not only did using social media so soon after a game break the team’s and league’s social media policy, but Brown recorded head coach Mike Tomlin’s postgame speech without his consent.
In that speech, Tomlin used an expletive when talking about the Patriots, the team the Steelers will play on Jan. 22. Tomlin was also caught using other expletives.
This received major backlash and Brown, a figure in the NFL who has not been known to cause trouble, is being ripped apart.
Specifically, Tomlin has publically expressed his disappointment in the matter.
“It’s our desire for him and for everyone to be great teammates, as well as great players,” Tomlin told the media regarding the incident. “He is a great player. He is a hardworking player. He is respected, largely, in the locker room for those things. But incidences such as this don’t help him in that regard.”
Tomlin took responsibility for his language, and said that Brown will be punished in some form for his actions.
“He has to grow from this,” Tomlin said. “He has to.”
Brown has since apologized for the live video, stating that his emotion following the win got the best of him.
One of the most upsetting parts of this video that both Tomlin and Brown have expressed is the distraction it has been to the team. A spot in Super Bowl LI is on the line Sunday, but players have had to field comments all week on a Facebook Live video rather than purely focusing on the game.
The only way Brown will be criticized more is if he doesn’t perform well in the game Sunday. If the Steelers lose, the video will be blamed for the loss.
No matter if the players like it or not, being so warm and comfortable on social media holds them accountable for their play on the field. If Brown drops a ball on Sunday, and does poorly overall, talk shows and fans will still be talking about that video.
Elizabeth Swinton is a broadcasting and visual media major from Linden, N.J. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @eswint22.