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A Letter from the Editor: An athlete’s personal social dilemma

Pittsburgh Steelers’ talented inside linebacker, Devin Bush, is causing waves on social media, and many are wondering why?

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to social media, some love it, and some hate it.

Sure, it might not be that cut and dry, but it typically boils down to some individuals love the ability to connect with others, get into the minds of people they follow and give their opinion on topics/trends, while others can’t stand how it traps people in a proverbial time suck.

As an individual who needs social media to keep tabs on the Pittsburgh Steelers, I can honestly say I can take or leave it. I have seen the best, and worst, of social media on all platforms and surrounding a wide array of topics.

And this brings me to the main topic of this article — Devin Bush.

The incredibly talented Steelers linebacker has gone from quiet and reserved, to outspoken and controversial almost overnight. Whether it was his tweet about grown men having Tik Tok, or a quote tweeted video of a cat falling to its demise. To say it’s been a change of pace is a gigantic understatement.

Before you ask, “What in the world is a quote tweet?!” understand it isn’t important to the crux of this article. This article isn’t about what Bush has said, or not said, but an athlete’s ability to truly be themselves and use social media.

In 2020 the Steelers were ripped to shreds by the media for their Tik Tok videos both before and after games. When they were winning and off to an 11-0 start, it didn’t matter that much. But when things went south, suddenly the videos were a distraction and over the line. Bulletin board material for the opposition.

Now, Bush’s comments are making some fans long for those silly “Corvette Corvette” pre-game videos by JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Social media is a polarizing topic. It isn’t just about fun anymore. 250 character tweets are considering polarizing and politicized. Instagram posts are analyzed like the Zapruder film. And what athletes “like” on any platform has become front page news for some online media outlets.

It makes you wonder what athletes might be thinking when the decide to embark on their social media journey.

Sure, some use it as a way to make some money on the side. Advertisements are a way for athletes to make additional income outside of their NFL salaries. But for those who venture into the land of personal tweets, that is some murky water.

In my opinion, this goes all the way back to Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall was the first player I actually recall, because he was a former Steelers first round pick, who said something on social media which completely went against the collective narrative. His comments on the death of Osama Bin Laden infuriated most, and left many wondering what was wrong with this “spoiled and rich” professional athlete.

Now, what athletes tweet/post carries more to it than just face value. When Bush tweeted the following, did people care?

Absolutely not. He was praised for the tweet and given heaps of love and support for a tremendous 2021 season.

But when Bush tweeted this, there wasn’t as much support.

Bush was criticized for his grammar, and accused of being either hacked or high when he sent out the previous tweet.

Here lies the dilemma.

Can a professional athlete have a social media account for their own personal thoughts and opinions anymore? It doesn’t look like it, unless your own thoughts and opinions mesh with the fan base’s thoughts and opinions. That you do nothing but show yourself studying game tape, working out and recovering from said workouts 24/7. I understand companies have the right to fire individuals for their social media posts/activity. The National Football League is no different, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Bush is getting a phone call from one Burt Lauten, Direct of Public Relations for the Steelers, in the not so distant future about his social media use.

At this point we come full circle. Can professional athletes have personal social media accounts where they can actually give their own thoughts and opinions on topics? Can they give their honest opinion anymore?

It doesn’t seem like it.

This isn’t about Bush’s specific tweets, he is just the latest example of many who have gone down this road. I am not defending, nor opposing, Bush and his thoughts and opinions. Merely making the case for the state of social media in 2021.

It is easy to suggest a professional athlete just delete his account and focus on his job, but what if social media was part of the job? For a player like Bush, who is coming off a torn ACL in 2020, multiple streams of income is never a bad thing.

Let’s put it this way, should an athlete have the ability to voice their own thoughts and opinions however and whenever they want? My goal of this article was not to take sides, but to have a dialogue about any professional athlete’s ability to utilize social media for personal use. Nothing less, nothing more.

With that said, let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 regular season.