‘I write what I like’
This is a title taken from a compilation of writing by a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement -- Steve Biko. I think we all know the history behind this renowned leader.
If not, I’ll give you a teensy-weensy background. He was an anti-apartheid activist who later founded the Black Consciousness Movement, which would empower and mobilise much of the urban black population. You are probably wondering why I chose this title. It’s not my intention to dwell on the past but to look at how our current media gives a platform to athletes to express themselves, freely or according to what is expected of them. Biko chose this title because he refused to be told what to think and what to write.
Some would say freedom of speech does not give you permission to say or write what you like because there are consequences you must live with, if people don’t like what you say.
In the last few years, many footballers started embracing media, especially the social media phenomenon. Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are all examples of social media that are becoming a key feature of our everyday lives as they bring fans and footballers closer together. It has opened a floodgate of information for fans to closely interact with their favourite footballers.
It has given footballers permission to say what’s on their minds -- what Biko calls ‘Frank Talk’. It has also become a mouthpiece for them, as it gives them a chance to speak directly to the world without reporters tempering with their words.
Footballers can build up an impressive and loyal following. @rioferdy5 (Rio Ferdinand) and @cesc4official (Cesc Fabrega) each have over 800 000 followers on Twitter and this number is growing every day because they are showing their fans that they are fun footballers with some character. They are both great examples of how a sportsman can use social media to not only put across their views but also interact with their followers.
Sometimes soccer players forget to keep it professional (and remain ambassadors for their club). If you are careless with what you write, you can burn from that.
@Joey7Barton (Joey Barton) was in hot water when he tweeted on an internal issue regarding fellow player Jose Enrique’s fine for publically expressing concerns about the club. Lets not forget the tweet from @RyanBabel (Ryan Babel), the Liverpool striker, was fined for posting photoshopped photos of referee Howard Webb wearing a Manchester United shirt.
Social media allows footballers to express their views but autobiographies have also proven to be controversial as players write what they like. Roy Keane was charged with bringing the game into disrepute following the release of his controversial autobiography. He apparently admitted to having deliberately embarked on a revenge tackle on Manchester City's Alf-Inge Haaland.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be hard to like because of his abrasive character in the field, but his recently released autobiography, Full Truth, caused a splash in the media. It includes heavy criticism of the management of former coach Pep Guardiola.
I believe a football organisation that does not know what its footballers and fans feel and think is in a dangerous position. The organisation that tempers with free speech runs the risk of destroying the creative instincts of its players.
That is just my opinion. What do you think? Do you think clubs should use social guidelines, stopping players ‘tweet what they like’ on these sites or in their autobiographies?