It happened in hockey, but it could have just as easily have happened in golf, which it did just a few months ago when Ted Bishop called Ian Poulter a “lil girl,” which led to Bishop being accused of a sexist remark and eventually being ousted as president of the PGA of America.
There were many who felt that the punishment was over the top, but the price that Bishop paid demonstrates all too well that, despite the popularity of social media these days, we’re still trying to figure out what consequences can come with our actions.
We got a pretty good idea of how serious it can get earlier this week when TSN issued a public apology to Toronto Maple Leaf forward Joffrey Lupul, captain Dion Phaneuf and his wife Elisha Cuthbert.
TSN displayed what was called an inappropriate tweet among others from the public on a scrolling ticker. A lawyer representing all three issued a statement demanding a formal apology and threatening legal action.
A similar letter was also sent to the original person who issued the tweet.
Where it goes from here remains to be seen, but the point is, for purposes of this contribution, that despite examples of people losing their jobs or being threatened with legal action, the only rule in social media is that there are no rules.
That just isn’t true as the above-mentioned examples illustrate. The golf example was an ill-advised comment and the hockey example could be seen as defamation of character.
Besides potential legal action in the hockey example, it is an embarrassing situation for TSN, which not only apologized, but has also stated that no public tweets will be aired on live broadcasts anymore.
What social media has done is give a louder voice in the public domain that was at one time occupied exclusively by traditional media outlets and the editors and lawyers used to catch potential cases of libel or defamation before they got out.
That’s not to say you can’t be critical about a player’s performance be it on the ice or the golf course or even the way a team or any other sporting organization is being run, but there are lines that can be crossed that many getting into social media won’t know about until they step over that line.
That’s not to say they shouldn’t have a voice, but to point out that they live by the same rules as traditional media.
Chances are that any offence by somebody at your business won’t be as controversial as the examples used here, but in each case, they weren’t aware of what would follow either and they were people used to being in the spotlight.
Whether it’s a lawsuit that follows, an apology that needs to be written, somebody loses a job or somebody at your business has offended a potential client, there are potential problems even if users of social media tend to think they’re untouchable from their computer keyboards.
When you bring in new equipment to be used at your business, you make sure people are properly trained on how to use it and what could potentially go wrong. Social media can be fun and advantageous for promoting your business.
However, just as social media gives people a bigger audience for getting their messages across, that also means that any screw-up or inappropriate comment will be even more amplified with your company name all over it.
To stop that from happening, codes of conduct and safeguards need to be established just as you would set safety standards in other areas of your operation.