Mario Balotelli: Why Athletes and Social Media Often Don’t Mix

Sports Ethics has a program that addresses choices, consequences and the social media. Why a whole program devoted to just that one topic? We never cease to be amazed over how quickly and how deeply athletes can get themselves into trouble over tweets and posts.

Back in the “olden days,” an athlete could say something dumb or unintentional and it might make it to a newspaper story or even to a radio station and it could be “buried,” deleted or edited. The athlete might instagramhave time to go back and explain himself or herself and that would be the end of it.

A wise writer or broadcaster might even have had the courtesy to ask the athlete something like: are you sure you want to say that?

Social media is not only instantaneous, it is forever. Yes, you can delete a tweet but by then it can still be too late. Someone has already seen it (make that hundreds or thousands of “someone’s”) by the time you get around to deleting it.

For a professional athlete, a stupid post or tweet not only carries embarrassment or anger or laughter with it, it also has a dollar value leading to fines or a loss of commercial endorsements. While we’re on this topic, it is necessary to point out that it’s an international problem. Athletes the world over can make bone-headed mistakes.

Mario Balotelli Gets Charged

In an article put together by ESPN Staff (December 5, 2014) entitled: “FA charges Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli over Instagram post,” the author’s state:

“Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli has apologized after an image he re-posted on Instagram led to accusations of racism and anti-Semitism…The Football Association has charged Mario Balotelli with an ‘aggravated breach’ of its rules over a recent post on social media.”

Balotelli posted the Super Mario computer game character on his Instagram account this past week that carried the following idiotic headline:

“Don’t be racist. Be like Mario, he’s an Italian plumber, created by Japanese people, who speaks English and looks like a Mexican. He jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew.”

The headline, not written by the soccer star manages to insult all kinds of people in one shot. The words are perhaps funny to the people who created it, but it perpetuates lies and bigotry and is not at all fitting to a professional athlete in the year 2014.

As an aside, I am always amazed in these situations when people say that anyone offended has no sense of humor. However, the people laughing are invariably those who do not fall into one of the offended groups.

Not surprising, the Liverpool soccer star has made apologies and I sincerely believe he was so clueless he really meant no harm to anyone. I have no idea who wrote the headline nor does it matter. What matters is that there was no thought process between posting and sending and that is where the big troubles are found. What also matters is why a grown man, and indeed, a black man, could not fathom why re-posting or re-tweeting this kind of crap would not hurt people.

The matter is not forgotten and it has not been dropped. The FA has strict rules and this is where the money part might come into play. Balotelli could face a five game suspension. Quoting from the piece:

“It is alleged the Liverpool player breached FA Rule E3[1] in that his posting was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper…It is further alleged that this is an ‘Aggravated Breach’ as defined by FA Rule E3[2] as it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief.”

The Liverpool club responded:

“We acknowledge the FA’s decision and the player will work through the process to answer the charge. While that process is ongoing, the club will not be making any further comment.”

The entire incident could have been avoided had only the soccer star understood the consequences of not thinking through the posting of this junk. However, unless he was trained to avoid these situations and unless he understood what he was doing, it was bound to happen.

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