Sports Scandals and Social Media

By: Nancy Lien

They may be signing off on multi-million dollar contracts and sponsorships year after year, but athletes are no better than the “Average Joe.” Hit with the misfortune of being a public figure, their scandals are the ones that land on the front covers of newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites. Today, the public can take matters into their own hands by spreading the news via social media and personal blogs.

1. Lance Armstrong: Doping Scandal

Damien Ressiot, a French sports reporter, was the first to report about Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal in October 2012. Not long after the release of Ressiot’s story, ex-fans and even celebrities took to Twitter to express their distaste, accusing him of lying and cheating during his interview with Oprah Winfrey. However, the whole world was not turning their backs just yet. There were defensive tweets in support of the cyclist who was once hailed as a hero and an iconic symbol of hope for cancer survival. Nevertheless, Armstrong’s scandal created a stir in the world for a second. While he was able to keep some fans, his image had been tainted.

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Photo: Twitter

2. Tiger Woods: Multiple Mistresses

The reaction to Tiger Woods’ apology in February 2010 of his adultery was split online. His apology aired on multiple channels following the scandal that broke out earlier that year from a tabloid accusing Woods of having multiple affairs. Many users took to blogs and Twitter to dish it out. There was even a hashtag on Twitter named #tigershouldve. He was a trending topic by the end of the day. Some of his more loyal fans were upset he was not playing golf and venting their frustrations on discussion boards. Fortunately, Woods has been able to bounce back into the “swing” of things and has since competed in tournaments.

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Photo: Twitter

3. Jerry Sandusky: Child Sex Abuse Allegations

A fiasco quickly ensued when the news broke out in November 2011 of allegations of child sex abuse against Penn State coaching assistant, Jerry Sandusky. Before long multiple officials on the coaching staff and the school president were either charged with obstruction of justice or fired. The reactions from students, fans, players and activists were just as chaotic. Some called for a shutdown of the program, while others defended Sandusky and head coach Joe Paterno, arguing that the two accomplished a lot for the school. The phrase “we are” was popular among the Penn State community. Users also used their social media accounts to discuss child sex abuse. Amongst the outcries, many were able to shed a light and bring awareness to the issue.

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Photo: Penn State Facebook page

While sports scandals are not a new concept, fans can still be very unforgiving. With many platforms to air out their anger and frustration, these athletes aren’t left to defend themselves only to reporters, but to anyone with online access as well.