Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Chalk Talks- Evading the Tweet Bomb: Utilizing Financial Aid Agreements to Avoid First Amendment Litigation and NCAA Sanctions

Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Chalk Talks- Evading the Tweet Bomb: Utilizing Financial Aid Agreements to Avoid First Amendment Litigation and NCAA Sanctions

Article excerpt

The rise of social media in modern society has created a significant shift in the way that society communicates.1 Social media provides access to channels of communication that have never before been available. Social media's increased popularity among college athletes has given rise to an increasing amount of incidents in which the misuse of social media has caused substantial harm to the student-athlete, the university, or both. In such situations, a university administrator or coach may choose to ban the use of social media by student-athletes. This Note illustrates certain practical measures that should be implemented in order to expel any liability created by such a ban. Part I of this Note discusses a brief history of social media. Part II discusses a brief history of how the use of social media has affected university athletic departments. Part III discusses potential First Amendment challenges to a ban of social media by university administrators or coaches. Part rv discusses measures that a university may take in order to protect themselves from these challenges, and Part V discusses the practical application of the information contained within this Note.


The use of technology to bring social groups together is a phenomenon that dates back to the 1950s.2 With the advent and subsequent popularity of the Internet, the first "social networking website" was launched in 1997.3 This first website,, did not see great success. The launch of Friendster and Myspace in 2002 and 2004, respectively, began a period during which these social networking websites saw an increasing popularity.4 Today, Facebook and Twitter are easily the two most popular social network sites on the Internet.5

Facebook launched in 2004 and boasts over 800 million global users.6 There are 1,851,000 status updates entered every 20 minutes on the website, and more than half of the website's active users log into their account on a daily basis.7 Perhaps the most impressive statistic is that Facebook is the second most visited website in the world behind only Google.8

Twitter launched in 2006,9 and also boasts impressive statistics. The website posts one billion tweets per week10 and 230 million tweets per day." Twitter is the tenth most visited website in the world.12


The role that social media played in recruiting potential student-athletes led to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA's) initial involvement with social media.13 A recent example of the NCAA's influence in this area of social media recruiting came during the recruitment of John Wall, a highly touted basketball athlete.14 A student at North Carolina State (NC State) created a Facebook fan site that implored Wall to enroll at NC State.15 Fearing an NCAA infraction, NC State administrators sent the student a cease-and-desist letter that demanded he remove the Facebook site.16 Following this incident, some began to question whether the NCAA's policy pertaining to social media could violate student's First Amendment rights.17 When asked about this concern, an NCAA spokesman stated, "We don't see it as a free speech issue. We want to be sure that we limit the level of intrusion that comes into [the potential student-athlete's] lives."18

As the popularity of these websites continues to increase, the use of social media by potential student-athletes, current student-athletes, and collegiate coaches has escalated.19 While many coaches and athletes utilize social media to communicate throughout the recruiting process and beyond, use of the websites has had negative consequences for some.20

Even more recently, student-athlete's use of social media was scrutinized when the NCAA cited the University of North Carolina for failing to adequately monitor their student-athlete's social media usage in 201 1.21 The NCAA alleged that had the university properly monitored these websites, they would have been made aware of their studentathlete's improper behavior and could have taken measures to remedy this behavior. …

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