Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What If A Princeton Athlete Had Said It?

If you're a fan of the New York Giants, like TigerBlog is, then you can't help but love Victor Cruz.

Undrafted out of UMass, Cruz had a monster preseason game against the Jets in 2010, catching three TD passes. Like most Giants fans, TB immediately began to root for Cruz to be on the final roster.

Cruz made the team that year but pulled his hamstring and didn't catch a single pass before being put on injured reserve.

Ah, but 2011. Now that was a season.

Cruz caught 82 passes for a Giants-record 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns, including a 99-yarder against the Jets. He then caught 21 more passes in the postseason as the Giants won the Super Bowl.

To prove it wasn't a fluke, he came back last year with 86 catches, 1,086 yards, 10 touchdowns and his first Pro Bowl appearance.

To Giants fans, he was the complete package. Young. Local (from Paterson, N.J.). Not a big-time college football program. Nobody had ever heard of him, and then all of the sudden he was a superstar.

On top of that, he always appeared happy. Always smiling. Always said the right thing. Looked like he was having a blast, like he was the one professional athlete who understood that he had been so overwhelmingly blessed. Even his signature touchdown salsa dance comes across as joyful, rather than self-serving.

Even when he renegotiated his contract this off-season, Cruz didn't come across as greedy. He said all the right things. Both sides did. It was the least acrimonious renegotiation ever, and it ended when he signed his contact last week. Five years. $46 million.

Cruz was one of the first people TB followed when he first set up a Twitter account. Cruz is always tweeting happy little messages and pictures of him with kids at schools he visits and things like that.

Last week, there was a great picture of Cruz, his arms outstretched in front of MetLife Stadium, after he signed.

That tweet didn't get quite the attention of one of his more recent ones, which came in the moments after the verdict in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.

TB first heard about the tweet while listening to Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason on WFAN yesterday morning, and his first thought was "uh oh, what did he say." Then he found out:
"Thoroughly confused. Zimmerman doesn't last a year before the hood catches up to him."

Cruz deleted the tweet and then posted a series of other ones apologizing.

TB takes Cruz at his word on his apologies.

The point is that it used to be that anyone could say something dumb or inappropriate or that they'd regret, but for the world to find out about it, they had to say it to someone else.

Now, especially with Twitter (should "tweet" be capitalized?"), anyone can say whatever, wherever, whenever - and the world can simply find out about it from there.

TB doesn't for a minute believe that Victor Cruz is advocating vigilante justice against George Zimmerman. And TB's overall opinion of Cruz is unchanged in the least.

But in the moment, he did send it out there, with no context, with no way to explain.

Just 140 characters or fewer.

TigerBlog was asked over the weekend - for about the 1,000th time - what if anything Princeton's policy is on having its athletes tweet.

As TB has said before, there isn't one, other than to give advice and hope nothing bad happens.

The advice?

Hey - Princeton Athlete - nobody is going to censor you. Just make sure you think before you hit send, and always assumes that your coach, your teammates, every coach and player you'll compete against, every ref, everyone on the admissions board at your dream medical school, every potential employer and of course your parents are going to see what you put out there.

To date, there haven't been any big problems with a Princeton athlete or coach and Twitter. Is that day coming? Probably.

It's a tough situation. Young people should be encouraged to participate on the kind of forums that Twitter provides, especially the kinds of kids at Princeton (not to sound like a snob). And TB thinks it's fine if people want to articulate their views, even if they are controversial.

It's when they cross the line to inappropriate that it becomes a problem.

So what would have happened had a Princeton athlete tweeted what Cruz did after the verdict in the Zimmerman/Martin case?

TB isn't quite sure.

For starters, it wouldn't have generated the national attention that the one that Cruz did. Well, maybe that's not true. Maybe it would have, coming from an Ivy League athlete.

So what would happen? Would Princeton be forced to act? Suspend the athlete for a game?

What would be the right thing to do in that case?

It comes back to one of TB's all-time burning questions. Who decides when the line has been crossed?

If Princeton were to discipline the athlete for saying that, then what about a tweet that simply had disagreed with the verdict? Or one that was tamer but included a curse word? Would the fact that school is not in session now matter?

Who gets to say?

It's a privilege to be a Princeton athlete, and with that comes certain responsibilities for personal conduct. This extends beyond those times when the athlete is competing for the school.

Honestly, TB isn't sure on this one.

His instinct is to say that some punishment would have to be considered.

The more he thinks about it, though, the more he thinks it's all part of the educational process. It's supposed to be about an exchange of ideas and thoughts.

Even ones that don't come out the right way.

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