Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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You can use social media to get somebody else's kid kicked off the team!

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After a federal judge refused to overturn the school’s honor code, a 16-year-old Yarmouth (Maine) High lacrosse player decided not to fight her three-week suspension, and her school-mandated alcohol counseling, after the administration got its hands on Facebook pictures of her holding a can of Coors Light. (If you’re a beer snob like me, you might argue that Coors Light doesn’t count as beer, but for the sake of argument we’ll assume it does.)

You should be able to hold this whole truck’s contents in your hands and not violate an athletic honor code, because this truck contains no alcohol.

The question I haven’t seen answered is, how did the school get those pictures? Is the administration spending late nights, like creeps, searching its students’ Facebook profiles? Or, perhaps, would a campaign to besmirch the previously unsmirched be a little more orchestrated?

I’m not saying it happened in this case. But I am saying that in a social media age, if you’re a parent, or a player, wanting to attack some rival for getting more playing time/recognition/tail, what better way to eliminate your rival without the use of a hitman than to forward, surreptitiously, a Facebook photo of that rival doing something that violates the school’s athletic honor code, a document more sacrosanct than the U.S. Constitution?

This is not meant to cast aspersions on anyone involved in the Yarmouth case. After all, the 16-year-old had a beer, or something that had legal standing as beer, in her hand during the course of the lacrosse season in a clear violation of the school’s honor code, the law, and good taste. But if you want to fight evil with evil, it would be very, very easy to do.

In just about every high school since about forever ago, athletes and their parents have been required to sign honor codes that require action (suspension from the team, public apology, death by firing squad in the dean’s office) for various acts of moral turpitude and/or substance abuse (no tobacco, drinking, drugs, public sex with a farm animal) while the sports was in season. In my faint recollections of high school in the pre-Internet era, athletes (except for me, because I was a dork) engaged in all sorts of acts of dishonor, but the school never acted on anything unless something very public happened, like an arrest or sex with a farm animal in the parking lot of a Village Pantry.

The beauty of social media is the definition of “very public” has grown very much. Given the undiscriminating nature of teens’ party picture-taking, it would be fairly easy to pass around an incriminating photo of an athlete. For example, the two female athletes in Churubusco, Ind., who got put through the wringer, including having to explain themselves to an all-male panel, when someone got MySpace photos, off a private setting, of them licking phallus-shaped lollipops.

The ACLU took that case on, citing privacy issues, particularly the privacy in have private settings on stupid photos. So why didn’t it get involved in the Yarmouth case? I’ll surmise that the Indiana case was handled in a much more ham-handed way — the behavior happened over the summer, not during the season, and it didn’t necessarily appear to violate the school’s honor code. (Churubusco High cited a state athletic association rule as its reason for suspending the girls for a year for their Popsicle Twins imitation.) It’s harder to fight a case where the young athlete was caught doing something illegal during the course of the season.

In the Churubusco case, it was never established how the administration there got pictures that were supposed to be on a private MySpace site, for whatever that is worth. In this case and in the Yarmouth case, maybe there were concerned citizens fighting for the honor of the honor code who thought it was important their schools see what was happening.

But that seems a little weird to me. Not to defend any teenager doing something illegal or dangerous captured for posterity, but I have a hard time imagining somehow forwarding social media photos just because someone takes the honor code so seriously.

So if you’re a young athlete, I would recommend, for many reasons, you stay on the straight and narrow. And that if you don’t, make sure no one takes a picture of you. Because you don’t know whether your beer on Saturday ends up as an attachment in the principal’s email on Monday — especially if there’s someone out there who has a problem with you.

Written by rkcookjr

April 15, 2010 at 2:30 am