Social media has given sports fans direct access to athletes that past generations lacked.
Disgruntled supporters could call into radio shows, leave comments on message boards and boo from the bleachers, but the growth of Twitter and other social media outlets have given that same group the opportunity to express its frustration without any filters or buffers.
After Kentucky suffered a 64-55 loss to Baylor Saturday – a loss that snapped the program’s 55-game winning streak and dropped the Wildcats from the Associated Press poll for the first time in John Calipari’s tenure -- a few players, including Willie Cauley-Stein, left Twitter.
On Monday, Cauley-Stein, a freshman center, said he made the decision due to “a bunch of negativity.” Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer and Julius Mays also “turned off” their Twitter feeds, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Jerry Tipton.
But Cauley-Stein also suggested that he’d considered the move prior to Saturday’s loss, per this video published by the Herald-Leader’s John Clay.
“You can’t say what you want to because it’s all monitored. So why do it? … It was a lot more fun having twitter as a high school kid.”
That last line says it all.
It’s not just the “negativity.” It’s the scrutiny, both internal and external, that’s deterred some players from using social media.
It’s definitely a double-edged sword.
It’s a great way for the players to connect with their supporters. But it’s also a potential portal to drama.
Calipari backed the team’s fans prior to the Monday’s practice. And he sympathized with the ones who were disappointed Saturday.
“Our fans cheered (UK players) coming off the court. I don’t know if I would have cheered. . . . If I was a player, I would want to play in front of these fans. … They care.”
That passion, however, can lead to criticism in tough times, something Kentucky’s freshmen learned over the weekend.