The NCAA does not have an official social media policy for its members. Despite the lack of a social media policy, the NCAA suspended Lehigh University's Ryan Spadola who was the football team's top wide receiver from a playoff game for retweeting an alleged inappropriate message. This suspension may have harmed Lehigh's chances of winning the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision since Lehigh lost the game that Spadola was banned from.
Playing collegiate sports is privilege and not a right. Ryan Spadola apologized for the tweet and appeared contrite over his actions. However, the NCAA still made an example out of him. This teachable moment has turned into a situation that may have major legal ramifications in the future for similar situations. What if instead of retweeting an alleged racial slur Spadola provided his opinion about the President of the United States and the NCAA disagreed with his Tweet? Would Spadola have been banned from the playoffs?
The NCAA must tread very carefully in the social media space because its actions may open itself and/or its members to massive legal liability that may not be anticipated. Those who advocate that student-athletes be mandated to turn over their private social media user names and passwords and/or allow schools access to students' private electronic content, and/or install spying software onto students' personal electronic devices may be uninformed of the law and the public policy implications. Ohio's Supreme Court ruled almost 2 years ago that while under Ohio's jurisdiction a warrantless search of electronic devices is barred in most situations. The New York Times subsequently wrote an editorial that stated that this should be the law throughout the country.
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Copyright 2011 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.