Social media can be fabulous for professional athletes, providing a self-controlled platform to engage directly with their fans. What could go wrong?
Well, plenty, as it turns out. From trolls to twitter fails, here are a few examples where, in the New Year, it may just be better to walk away altogether.
Haakonsen’s response to Gus Kenworthy, above, coming out as gay drew wide condemnation.
In October, American freeskier Gus Kenworthy announced to the world that he was gay through ESPN’s social media channels, website and print magazine.
It was another step in the march towards equality and acceptance. Hours later, world-famous snowboarder Terje Haakonsen took to twitter and responded:
“No, @btoddrichards did this 20 years ago & isn’t all skiers gay; i’m heterosexual #soSpesial.”
Social media, led by some of the sport’s elite athletes, all weighed in, criticizing Haakonsen for his lack of respect, outdated attitude and for bringing fellow legendary pro Todd Richards into the social media storm.
Richards himself put it best in a tweet that said, “WTF is wrong with you?”
Haakonsen later told SNOWBOARDER magazine that the tweet was meant to be humorous, and that he meant no disrespect.
Perhaps he should take his “comedy” offline.
OK, this might seem a bit harsh. Tom Curren is a three-time world champion and universally acknowledged as one of the most stylish surfers to ever grace a surfboard. Even now, he still surfs with a grace and expertise that defies his 51 years on Earth.
However, his Instagram account fails miserably to reflect his life as one of the best surfers on the planet and as a professional touring musician.
Maybe it would be better for Tom to walk away from the whole social media deal and let other people document his fantastic talents.
Thank you to Staci (and her niece, Isabele) for joining us on the @tavaruaislandresort trip after winning the draw in our fundraiser. We all had a great trip and they have officially started their surfing careers! They also caught the most fish this week and put all us dudes to shame. Can't wait to be back and do it again. Any suggestions for our @omazeworld trip next year, let me know em! Thanks everyone. @shanedorian @toddglaser @jwpalms @smiletrain @surfaid @morethansport @skatetoschoolcontests
Kelly Slater was relatively late to the social media scene, but he caught up rather quickly. As 2015 was ending, he had 1.4 million followers on Instagram and another 477,000 on Twitter.
However, following the social media rule of thumb that many fans means many trolls, Kelly has found himself attacked repeatedly this year, which has forced him to respond.
There was a spat with fans over the price of items in his Outerwear label in which Slater replied, “The amount of hatred is next level from dipshits [sic] like yourself.”
Later, another round of hate came when a charity competition, which offered a prize surfing with Kelly and Shane Dorian in Fiji, was won by a non-surfer (see pictures of the winners above).
Standing on a much higher moral ground, Kelly shut the haters down, but maybe it would be easier to just walk away from the social media haters and live life in real-time.
Now, Alex Knost is so cool it makes your eyes bleed. A super talented surfer, an incredible shaper, a successful artist and lead singer for a variety of bands, it’s no surprise that Knost has created a cult following.
And yet, despite this, Surf Europe magazine still rated him as one of six surfers not to follow on Instagram. They reckon his account fails to portray the eclectic life he leads and has “more of a pictures of chairs, a lamp, [and] a wardrobe vibe.”
Looking at his latest posts, they may have a point.
South Africa KFC
Okay, a fried chicken-selling operation isn’t a professional athlete, but please bear with us. When South Africa KFC put their parody commercial based on Mick Fanning’s shark attack on their social media channels, they were undoubtedly hoping for a viral reaction.
What they received, however, was universal condemnation, with the most stinging rebuke coming from Mick’s mom, Liz.
“Some families have had fatalities and some people are still absolutely scarred without limbs. It’s disrespectful to them and Mick is not at all happy with that,” Fanning’s mother said in an article on smh.com.
Not so much a case of telling a 12-year-old surf prodigy to quit social media, but telling a 12-year-old surf prodigy to quit social media while he’s ahead.
After a three-minute video of Eli Hanneman was found on the web, the pre-teen’s uber talent spread like wild fire as the video became one of the most watched surf clips of the year.
If all this happened before he’s old enough to open an Instagram or Facebook account, maybe he’s best off not even starting.
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