Free Speech Doesn’t Protect Your Reputation

Sam Montgomery is a reader of the MarTech Blog and contacted me regarding a story of a young football talent named Yuri Wright. Yuri was actively being recruited by Michigan State… up until some folks read his tweets. The tweets are displayed at Chat Sports and not safe for work (NSFW)… just know that they’re pretty vulgar.

Yuri Wright, the 4-star CB from New Jersey, was once though to be headed to Michigan in the 2012 class. Earlier this month, the Michigan coaching staff took a deeper look into the prospect after a concerned alumnus sent the school verbatim tweets that Yuri had posted on his Twitter account that were both racially and sexually unacceptable.

I’ve actually spoken at several universities about this and told students that everything they’re recording in social media today is something that will impact their job prospects down the road. Some are shocked, many think it’s unfair… but the fact is that who Michigan recruits is a direct reflection of their university.

Michigan chose the appropriate action based on the situation. I believe Mr. Wright learned a tough lesson, too. I’m sure was just mouthing off to score some points with his followers and get a few laughs. If he were a comedian, he’d be okay… but since he’s a recruit of a University with high visibility, this is what happened.

Every activity you take online has consequences. It’s why there’s really no such thing as transparency… it’s more opaqueness. I don’t go out of my way to offend people online, but even I lose followers from time to time that don’t care for my sense of humor.

When I tweet something risque, I’m not just risking a follower, I’m also risking the sponsors of my blog and the clients from my inbound marketing agency. There’s no way I can be totally transparent! I love off-color jokes… the more politically incorrect, the harder I typically laugh. It’s just my opinion, but the fact that everyone is so damn oversensitive these days is terrible – especially as our lives play out online.

I can live with the fact that I lost a follower and, perhaps a reader, but it still bothered me. It bothered me that there was someone out there who I thought I was someone that I wasn’t. But I have to put it behind me and move on. I’m not perfect, I’m going to slip up once in a while. And… some people simply aren’t going to like me. It’s just a simple fact.

But I’m lucky… my career isn’t starting. I’m not the recruit or the employee of anyone. I can’t imagine where I’d be in life if there were Facebook pics, Twitter – or worse – YouTube when I was in my teens. I was completely out of control. I’d probably be doing hard labor somewhere!

Did he deserve a second chance? Yes… we all do. Thankfully he got one when CU picked him up:

I made a huge mistake,” Wright said. “I definitely learned a valuable lesson, and I promise nothing like that will ever happen again. Everyone that knows me knows that’s not my true character or who I really am. I’m not going to sit here and try and make excuses for what I did. I’m just going to be a man and say I was wrong and I learned from it.

Who knows… someday you might need a second chance, too. Let’s not do anything crazy out there, folks! People are watching… and many don’t have a sense of humor.

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