Players' opinions should not be silenced

On Wednesday, Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones made his latest social media attempt to woo MMA star Ronda Rousey.

It was the latest in a string of Jones tweets that provide a glimpse of his personality away from football. It was flirty, fun and harmless (at least you'd hope, for Jones' sake).

Players have been able to show more of themselves through social media. They've also been able to show a social conscience. And they should not be silenced -- not by their schools, not by their coaches, certainly not by the NCAA and, most of all, not by their fans.

Jones and Ohio State teammate Michael Thomas took to social media on Thursday to tweet about a more important topic -- the controversial death of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman, in a Texas jail July 13. Bland was arrested July 10 following a traffic stop for failing to use her turn signal. Her death has sparked national outrage, especially in the African-American community.

Thomas posted several tweets about the Bland case, including a link to commentary from Cenk Uygur demanding a full investigation into Bland's death. Jones also posted several tweets with the hashtag #AllLivesMatter.

Here's one:

Jones and Thomas are two African-American college students using their high-profile social media platforms to express opinions about a major national story impacting their community. And yet they were met with resistance.

One person told Jones to "worry about getting us fans another championship..... Stay out of this bulls---." To which Jones replied:

Another tweeter told Thomas to cool it or potentially be suspended by the NCAA. Thomas noted he's allowed to have his voice be heard.

Unfortunately, Thomas soon removed his back and forth with the fan, but he continued to tweet on the issue. Jones didn't back down, either. He continued to show his personality, mixing thoughts of food and football all while continuing the social discussion by adding some retweets, including one of from BTN's Taylor Rooks, who is spot on in her remarks.

Buckeye fans are understandably thrilled today because Nick Bosa, the younger brother of Ohio State All-America defensive end Joey Bosa and the nation's No. 3 recruit, announced he will suit up for the Scarlet and Gray. But Ohio State fans should also celebrate what Jones and Thomas did, even if they don't completely agree with their views.

I applaud college football players like Jones, Thomas and Michigan's Jabrill Peppers for using Twitter to express their views on touchy topics. They should have the right to tweet about more than lunch at Chipotle or Drake's next song or a new alternate uniform or the next game.

Colleague Edward Aschoff and I have worked for months on a project about race in college football, talking to athletes around the country about their experiences. Although opinions are mixed on the value of social media, everyone we talked to thinks athletes should be using their position to speak out about important issues.

Those who use social media to show a social conscience should be applauded by their universities, coaches, teammates and fans. Instead, they're too often silenced.