News broke yesterday that the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern University was unlawfully controlling their players and thus forced the team to change their handbook and policies.
Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal wrote in an article yesterday, “The Wildcats’ team handbook was at the center of a memorandum released by the office of the labor agency’s general counsel, which found several practices that unlawfully restricted freedoms of player expression, such as policies concerning social media. This also included rules about players discussing their health and instructions to speak to the media only through the school’s athletic communications department.”
Why does this matter? Why should Northwestern have to change their policies? They are merely looking out for the athlete and university. By giving the athletes strict guidelines on what to say and to whom they can say it not only helps maintain the brand image of the University, but the athlete as well. Imagine what will happen if an athlete goes off book and says something that might hurt their chances in the draft if they decide to play professionally? What about if those words came back to haunt them when they were going to get a job?
The University should be allowed to have some control over what athletes post on social media because the University is giving these athletes money for school in return for the athletes helping the university on the field. It’s no different than when companies give employees guidelines on how to address company matters to the media and online. If an employee says something that reflects poorly on the company they would be punished.
So if an athlete wants to say something on social media that reflects poorly on the university’s brand the athlete should be punished. By having the guidelines in place essentially telling the athletes what to say and what not to say, the university is removing the chance for the athletes to say anything that could hurt them and the university.
Simply put, do you really want to trust a 18 year old to say the right things to the media if given the opportunity? Or would you rather give them a shield when speaking with the media so that if there is little to no chance for backlash?