powered by the Iowa City Press-Citizen & The Des Moines Register
Subscribe via RSS Feed

Pat Harty: McCaffery right to ban Twitter

[ 0 ] February 24, 2014 |

Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery did the right thing by ordering his players to shut down their Twitter accounts until the season is over.

It’s unfortunate that McCaffery has to take such extreme action, but this was a collision waiting to happen with the rise of social media.

Iowa senior Zach McCabe was wrong to lash out at fans on Twitter over the weekend. But he also was suffering at the time, his pride crushed by playing poorly in Saturday’s 79-74 loss to Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

A bad situation for McCabe became much worse after Saturday’s game when he was ripped for his performance on Twitter. McCabe then made the mistake of expressing his anger and frustration on Twitter.

He quickly apologized and deleted his Twitter account, but by then it was too late.

“My overall impressions of social media are negative, for the very reason of what we just experienced,” McCaffery told reporters during the Big Ten teleconference Monday morning. “It’s not something we can dwell on. I think what we have to do, and what I’ve done, is to tell all of our players to shut down their Twitter accounts until the season is over.”

The Iowa players won’t have time to dwell on much besides basketball and academics with having to play three games in five days, beginning with Tuesday’s game at Minnesota. Iowa also will play at Indiana on Thursday before returning home to face Purdue on Sunday.

Being off Twitter will mean one less distraction during this hectic week. It also sends a message to those who have the misguided need to lash out to college athletes through social media that their actions have consequences.

One of the problems with Twitter is that nobody is held accountable for what they tweet. It’s a coward’s paradise where you can hide behind an alias and act tough.

I’d be willing to say that none of the people who ripped the 6-foot-7, 235-pound McCabe on Twitter this past weekend would say anything to his face besides maybe, ‘hang in there Zach.’

And that’s exactly what McCabe will do. He’ll hang in there with the support of his players and coaches. He’ll learn from this adversity and likely will be on Twitter again.

Many former Iowa student-athletes, including former all-Big Ten forward Greg Brunner, have voiced their support for McCabe on social media.

“I love everything he brings to this program and support him 100 percent,” McCaffery said of McCabe, a 6-foot-7 forward from Sioux City. “It’s very upsetting when you’re getting attacked and I think you can have the impression that the entire fan base is attacking you.

“And that is not the case. I think the good thing that has come out of this is how much support he’s gotten in return from so many different people.”

In fairness to Twitter, it serves a valuable role as a way to express feelings and convey information to the public. It’s a way to communicate with friends and to support them. And it’s a way for student-athletes like McCabe to stay connected to their fan base.

The problem is that it only takes a few trolls to ruin the experience. McCaffery is right in saying that the people that lashed out to McCabe probably only make up a tiny portion of the fan base, if they’re Iowa fans at all.

Who’s to say they weren’t fans from a different school posing as Iowa fans? You just don’t know with how Twitter functions.

Whatever the case, McCaffery did what was necessary because Twitter had become a distraction. You feel for the Iowa players who enjoy the Twitter experience, but the team comes first.

And it’s not as if McCaffery is asking for much. He’s only banning Twitter until the end of season, which might only be another month if the players are fortunate to keep winning in the postseason.

The Iowa football players are banned from using Twitter from the moment they step on campus until they’re through playing as Hawkeyes.

I remember thinking Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz was over-reacting when he established the Twitter ban, when really he was just being pro-active and making sure that his players wouldn’t be subjected to the same thing that happened to McCabe.

It’s easy to say just ignore what people write on Twitter, but that’s being naïve. It’s human nature to be curious and to want to lash out at people who try to tear you down.

Today’s student-athlete lives in a much different world compared to a decade ago when Twitter didn’t exist. They’re faced with more distractions, more temptations and more ways to be criticized and scrutinized.

McCaffery now has eliminated one of the distractions, as he should have.

Tags: ,

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

Comments closed