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Friday, September 02, 2011

Regulating student-athletes' social media

A fellow prawf raises the following issue: What are the legal (especially First Amendment) implications of recent attempts by some schools (including, apparently, the University of North Carolina) to ban student-athletes from using Twitter and other social media? Can the schools do it? Should they do it? What arguments could student-athletes make in response and would they work?

This is the first I have heard about this issue. My initial, descriptive thought is that such a ban would be upheld on the strength of some unholy hybrid of Garcetti and Morse. Normatively, I find that a bit disheartening. I would hope for a more nuanced analysis, in which we might separate what a player does as an athlete playing for the team (and thus on behalf of the school) and as a student. After all, can it be that student-athletes have fewer First Amendment rights than student non-athletes? I remember watching a documentary a few years ago about John Wooden's UCLA dynasty, which described how Wooden permitted (and even somewhat encouraged) players such as Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton to get involved in campus activism and protests during the off-season (over Viet Nam and civil rights, primarily), with the caveat that they not do anything to embarrass the team (read: "Don't get arrested"). Forty years later and schools are afraid of having players tweet or post status updates?


Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 2, 2011 at 09:45 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Sports | Permalink


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Did this guy sign some kind of agreement to limit his right?
Isn't this a preemptive denial of right?
If the decision goes to the school it would be another in a long line of decisions squashing free speech.
What's next, if you want to walk on a town's shopping block, you must agree not to wear plaid or gossip or embrace a friend or write in a notepad or laugh loudly, or your privilege to so walk may be taken away?
These conservative thousands of judges err on the side of removing free speech wherever they get a chance. It will only be a matter of time
before there is no more private, personal speech. Then your local utility company can cancel your service if you dare to criticize them.
All speech will be subject to whatever restrictive whim any company or municipality imposes upon expression of your opinion.
If the freedom degrades much more I will consider moving to a country with about the same freedom --but a much lower cost of living.

Posted by: Martin Furlough | Sep 5, 2011 3:10:16 AM

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