Ignorance has reared it’s ugly head in many ways the last few weeks. Everything from sexual orientation to social media has been the victim. Sochi hosted perhaps the most politically controversial games since Mexico City with Russia’s anti-gay policies inspiring President Obama to send a noticeably out-of-the-closet delegation to accompany the U.S. team.
Closer to home, professional locker rooms have become hot stoves for the LGBT discourse as Jason Collins broke the openly gay, active player barrier last night for the Brooklyn Nets and Michael Sam went through the NFL combine prepping to become the first openly gay professional football player. Thankfully, we’ve reached a point in this debate that most of the conversation has been supportive and inclusive, though the topic still stirs up reactions that are less than ideal to even downright mean.
And while certainly on a much lesser level of import, Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino told ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike In The Morning program on Thursday that social media for his players was like, “taking poison.” He pointed to social media as causing young people to not be able to communicate effectively and said if it were up to him, he would prevent his players from using any form of social media.
If he had his way, by the way, the Cardinals would have received considerably less coverage of their last-second win over Cincinnati on Saturday. A video showing hero Russ Smith and the Cards celebrating in the locker room made SportsCenter. It was shared from Smith’s account on Instagram and was immediately picked up by several national media outlets.
You’re welcome, Coach.
Pitino’s ignorance of social media is easily found in his myopic perspective. He seems to see it as only a folly-like distraction from real communications. He doesn’t see it as a potential channel for his players to communicate in meaningful, positive ways — like promoting themselves or their abilities, reaching larger audiences with their messages or even simply conducting effective communications in today’s technology-driven age.
It’s also sad that Pitino doesn’t realize that his student-athletes will likely need to know and understand how to properly use social media in their future careers. Rival coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats, told the same radio show in response, “I’m not going to hold my team back from Twitter or Facebook, but I’m going to teach them. I’m going to use it as a positive.”
Oh … and basketball is just a game. Why would anyone participate in something that has no impact on their maturity, responsibility, career, etc. Heh.
Ignorance comes from lack of understanding. And prejudice comes from the refusal to understand. I’m confident if Pitino tried to move beyond his prejudice and understand social media and how it can help his student-athletes, he’d change his opinion of it.
On a more important scale, people understanding the perspective of someone different is the key to moving past that prejudice into enlightenment, understanding and perhaps acceptance. Maybe Coach Pitino can use his own less impactful prejudice as a life lesson to demonstrate to his players these fears and misunderstandings can be overcome. They’ll need that maturity if they’re to play at the next level.
Editor’s Note: Jason Falls has advised the University of Louisville athletic program on social media marketing in the past. He has not worked directly with Coach Pitino or the men’s basketball program.