Think back to when you were 14 or 15 years old. Most of us were young and dumb, thinking we were invincible, without a care in the world.
Most of us were naive, oblivious to the effect words could have on others, sharing our youthful interpretations of life and love and heartbreak at will, casting little - if any - thought to the impact those words carry.
We didn’t always think before we spoke, like we promised our parents we would.
The Kyler Murray situation made me think about the state of our society when it comes to social media.
Many don’t think before they write (or speak).
Murray, the Oklahoma quarterback who was awarded the Heisman Trophy Saturday evening, was called out, by a national news organization, after derogatory tweets surfaced after the presentation.
The social media posts, written when Murray was 15, included an anti-gay slur describing a friend. Four offensive tweets remained on Murray’s Twitter feed late Saturday evening and were deleted by Sunday morning.
Nothing like going from a pinnacle career highlight to rock bottom in your personal life in a matter of hours.
While I believe people are responsible for what they say or write, I’m not ready to skewer Murray.
Something else is at play here.
Social media posts, especially tweets, don’t just resurface after seven years. That’s not the type of post you’d see pinned at the top of Murray’s Twitter feed.
Someone - a fan, enemy, reporter - had to search through Murray’s feed, using key words to look for something - anything - that could cast doubt on his selection as college football’s top player.
Character assassination in 140 characters.
Murray isn’t alone. Other collegiate and professional athletes have been called out for undesirable language in social media posts.
Donte DiVincenzo, a Villanova guard named MVP of the 2018 NCAA Final Four, tweeted a line from rap lyrics containing racist language when he was 14 years old. After the Wildcats claimed the national championship, someone dug up the post and retweeted it. Villanova claimed the account had been hacked. DiVincenzo deleted his account.
What about former Wyoming QB Josh Allen? Considered a top pick in the 2018 NFL draft, a tweet Allen wrote when he was 14, containing racial slurs, surfaced right before the draft, plummeting Allen’s player stock.
The big questions: Who gains from outing athletes? What’s the motive?
Is it jealousy? A way to create headlines? A simple soundbite to boost ratings?
All of the above.
Murray apologized via his verified Twitter account, writing, “I apologize for the tweets that have come to light tonight from when I was 14 and 15. I used a poor choice of word that doesn’t reflect who I am or what I believe. I did not intend to single out any individual or group.”
Murray’s, DiVincenzo’s and Allen’s situations are a cautionary tale to anyone who uses social media.
Words matter, have a context, and those words can either chart or change the course of your life.