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How Student-Athletes Can Protect Themselves on Social Media

As followings increase, the potential for someone looking to take advantage of the social influence of student-athletes does as well.

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(INFLCR is Proud Partner of Front Office Sports)

(This is an op-ed piece from Jim Cavale, CEO of INFLCR)

It all started with a private message — an offer to help get his Instagram account verified — but it quickly turned into a nightmare for University of Kentucky football player Josh Allen.

Clicking on the link turned out to be a big mistake for Allen, one of the top defensive players in the Southeastern Conference and a bonafide first-round NFL draft prospect. Within minutes, a third party had logged Allen out and locked him out of his account by changing his password.

Just like that, he’d been hacked.

Whoever took control of his Instagram account, which has more than 6,000 followers, began soliciting users for cash using Allen’s name and account. Allen said the hacker contacted approximately 400 people through his Instagram account and had gotten at least 18 to commit to between $400 and $600 payments for alleged help in achieving verification.

“I thought it was a legit site,” Allen said. “And then I closed it to do other stuff, and when I went back to my Instagram account, it logged me back out and nothing I did would allow me back in. Everything was deleted. A friend of mine sent me a video he recorded (of my Instagram page), and (the hacker) had changed my bio and posted a video claiming to give away money and help people get verified.”

What happened to Allen could happen to anyone, and it’s hardly the only peril on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. The news these days is littered with athletes’ missteps on social media. Whether it is a hacking incident such as the one Allen suffered, posting something inappropriate or inflammatory that reflects poorly on the athlete or their team, or even having old posts resurface to create new controversies — the brand damage can be significant in real time.

This might cause some athletes or teams to wonder whether the risk of social media is worth the reward. That’s entirely the wrong takeaway.

Not only should you refrain from being afraid of social media if you are an athlete, you should embrace your social channels and tell your story with authenticity. Just look at LeBron James — he’s arguably the most influential and powerful athlete in American sports, yet he takes the time to run his social media channels, personally preserving his voice and his unique platform. How he connects with fans is a big part of his power and will serve him well long after his playing career ends in whatever venture he chooses to focus on.

Athletes should be all-in with social media — and they shouldn’t wait until they are in college or the pros to begin doing so.

However, they should indeed take some precautions.

Athletes and schools can take a few proactive steps to avoid the nightmare scenario, such as:

  • Never click through an unknown link received in a direct message (DM).
  • If you receive something you believe is suspicious, do some investigating before acting upon it.
  • Don’t use the same passwords for all your accounts.
  • Change your passwords frequently.
  • Getting your account verified with a blue check is a good thing, but it won’t protect you if you lose control of your account.
  • Turn on two-factor authentication for improved security.

Here are some other tips from the social platforms:

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

Allen made some smart moves after he discovered he’d been hacked. First, he reached out to Kentucky’s athletics staff to let them know of the problem. He also reached out to me, as UK athletics is a client for my company, Influencer (INFLCR) — an app that UK athletes like Allen use to grab content created daily by the UK media staff — so that he can grow his personal social brand in the context of the UK brand.

Through the UK Athletics strong relationship with Instagram Sports, we were able to get Allen’s account recovered quickly. But what he discovered shocked him. Those unsuspecting people solicited by the hacker were still contacting Allen through Instagram a day later, where he explained he had been hacked and they were victims, too.

“I was really feeling down,” Allen said. “They were using my name to sell their merchandise, and the worse part this person was taking advantage of me and my brand for a bad thing. You need protection. You really do need to protect your brand, People will take advantage of your social media. A lot of people only know you for social media, so what they see — that’s you. Then somebody comes in and {posts) for you, it’s you. It’s scary. People don’t know my page got hacked — they think it’s me.

“Be aware there are people out there (with bad intentions). It’s eye-catching. Be safe. If you are not aware, not really sure, if you’re skeptical, don’t click on a link. If you are not 100 percent sure, don’t just click on random things. You never know what you are clicking on.”

The reality is that once you get on the collegiate student-athlete stage, you are a target. Social media is a place where people can find you. They can tag you in posts. Your mentions can become something that becomes horrific if you have a bad game. It can become something that certain people want to antagonize you about.

You can, of course, be direct-messaged, and direct messages can solicit you and your character in a lot of different ways, including fooling you into thinking that something that you might want can be achieved through a DM. And the reality is, you don’t need to respond to those direct messages. You don’t need to search through your mentions. You need to go play and have the best performance you can on the field. You need to have the best performance you can academically in the classroom, and on social media, you need to tell your story and build your brand by sharing great content of yourself as an athlete, working toward your dream, and the other things you do that make you who you are — what you do for fun, time with your teammates, your family — the things that make you who you are. That’s what you need to talk about on social media. You don’t need to respond to things that are outside of that, like these direct messages.

You also need to realize one big thing: you are now on a stage, everything you do is put under a spotlight, and with this platform comes a great responsibility. The responsibility now has you hopefully thinking about social media, not as something to do with your friends but instead something to do to grow your brand and tell your story. Social media is not for friends anymore. You are bigger than that on this stage. Social media is for you building your brand and telling your story, so that college sports is a launching point for the rest of your life — and not the peak of your life.

If you want to hang out with friends, I suggest do it through text or in person. Your social media needs to be a storytelling platform for you and your brand and not for things with friends. If you follow that, you’ll know what to respond to and what not to respond to or what to do or not do on DM. This isn’t for friends anymore — it’s for brand building. If you can follow that, the rest will work itself out.

(INFLCR is Proud Partner of Front Office Sports)

Jim Cavale, a 3-time INC. 5000 Entrepreneur, is one of the nation’s leading experts on personal branding and a former NCAA student-athlete himself. He is founder and CEO of Influencer (INFLCR), a social media CRM that allows teams and leagues to efficiently distribute their digital assets across the social channels of their most effective brand ambassadors (student-athletes, coaches, recruits prominent alumni and fans) while being able to track and measure the reach and performance of the content at scale via a convenient dashboard. With INFLCR, teams can store, share and track their digital assets (game photos, videos, etc.) as they flow through the social media channels of their brand ambassadors. Learn more at inflcr.com.

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ESPN Brings AR to Life for NBA Playoffs

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May 20, 2019; Portland, OR, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) passes the ball past Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) and forward Meyers Leonard (11) during the second half in game four of the Western conference finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center. The Warriors won 119-117 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

During this year’s Western Conference Finals, you may have seen graphics that made you feel like you were playing an NBA 2K game instead of watching the Warriors sweep the Trail Blazers. 

Why? Because ESPN and Second Spectrum teamed up to deliver real-time AR graphics to provide viewers with advanced stats and engagement opportunities. 

What do you need to know?

‘ESPN Mode’, as it is called, is part of the network’s push to provide more differentiated viewing opportunities for fans through its digital offerings.

Outside of AR, ESPN has been offering a feed from a robotic camera above the rim, as well as one for pre-game layup lines, and during warmups for both teams.

They also rolled out a new NBA Twitter and YouTube pre-game show, Hoop Streams, as well as At The Mic, a show that covers post-game press conferences.

Why does Second Spectrum sound familiar? 

That’s because they are the company behind Clippers CourtVision, the technology that allows fans of the team to choose different streams that show different AR graphics during the broadcast of a game, similar to what ESPN was providing its fans. 

With CourtVision, fans get to choose from three streams, whereas with ESPN, the best of each different mode was combined into one. 

What did fans have to say?

The reaction to the graphics was mixed. Below is a look at what a few Twitter users had to say about them. 

– “Bruh. Wtf are these ridiculous graphics ESPN is forcing on us?!? Stop it.” – @vasu

– “I’m all sorts of excited for this.” – @iDontHoldHouses

–  “I like the idea here. A little too much going on IMO, but interested to see if this (hopefully in moderation) becomes more common.” – @declancmurray

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Mike Yam Helping Set a Path For Future Asian-American Broadcasters

Growing up, Mike Yam didn’t see many broadcasters that looked like him, so he didn’t figure it was a career option. He hopes to help change that perception.

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Mike Yam Pac-12
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Yam was going to be a pediatrician.

However, at Fordham University,  he realized chemistry wasn’t his thing. In his dorm, he saw a classmate in a suit, headed to cover a New Jersey Nets game for the school radio station. The brief conversation resonated with Yam, as he realized he could turn his passion for sports into a career option and joined the radio station. He spent the next four years honing his craft.

“It didn’t click when I was younger, but you don’t see a heavy representation of Asian male broadcasters,” says Yam, now a lead anchor for the Pac-12 Network.

“I didn’t think being a sportscaster was an option. It was that iconic American dream to be a doctor or lawyer my parents wanted for me.”

READ MORE: Bartending, Country Music and Kay Adams’ Relentless Path to Success

Washington State Athletic Director Patrick Chun, himself the son of South Korean immigrants, can relate to the academic stresses Yam faced growing up. Chun became the first Asian-American athletic director of a Power 5 school in 2018.

“When Asian immigrants come to the U.S., their dreams manifest themselves in who their children become,” Chun says. “The biggest ideology difference in cultures are Asian-American kids are there for their parents and American parents are there for their kids. They put a premium on education and a premium on work ethic.”

Growing up, Yam noticed that other than Michael Kim, there were few sports broadcasters that looked like him. This is still a rarity today. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, less than 5 percent of announcers, in any industry, are Asian, while 73.5% are white and 17.3% are black.

Yam believes diversity is an imperative need in newsrooms, and the sharing of cultures and stories is important in making these places more worldly.

 Yam is sometimes discouraged when he speaks at universities to big groups and sees a lack of Asian-Americans in the crowd. He said the lack of representation can potentially prevent children from imagining their dreams. But it’s improving.

“From the on-air side, I get legitimately excited when I see other Asian Americans on air,” Yam says. “What’s next is continuing to develop younger students who have a passion for this and see a pathway in an industry that’s really cool. It’s so crucial and important for younger people to see someone who looks like them doing this.”

For Chun, it was less about who he saw in positions and more about who he surrounded himself with. He credits people like Washington State President Kirk Schulz and Ohio State University athletic directors Andy Geiger and Gene Smith, who helped him while in the Buckeyes’ athletic department.

“They opened my eyes that this could be a goal,” Chun says. “Gene Smith was the guy who planted the seed in my head and gave me a road map. Even though there was no one that looked like me, it never crossed my mind I might the first.”

Chun believes it will take some time for stereotypes and stigmas to be eliminated, but people like Schulz help.

“We were focused on finding a leader with the right blend of experience, vision, and passion to lead Cougar athletics to the next level of success,” Schulz said at the time of Chun’s hiring. “In Pat, we’re confident we found that person. His achievements in fundraising, boosting the academic success rate of student-athletes, and building strong relationships with the community – on and off-campus – are exemplary.”

Yam doesn’t blame discrimination for the lack of Asian Americans in sports media, but he does believe it’s the Asian-American immigrant mentality that has partly held the industry in check. His grandfather essentially snuck into the U.S. and worked for years to bring his family to America. Yam’s father isn’t a sports fan, but the father and son were able to chat about sports during Jeremy Lin’s breakout season with the New York Knicks.

READ MORE: Inside Julianne Viani’s Whirlwind of a Broadcasting Career

“That’s when I knew it was big, when non-sports fans were talking about it,” Yam says. “I never really think about the lack of representation at a professional level until you see someone. Sports is the great equalizer. Either you can do it, or you can’t.”

Yam was not blessed with athletic skills, but he did find a path to be involved in sports in life. Now he gets to facilitate conversations with great athletes and coaches and hopes more find a similar path.

“Who wouldn’t want to do this?” he asks. “What kid wouldn’t want to be in this situation? People just need to know it’s possible.”

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Steve Javie Leans on Referee Experience to Provide Insight for ESPN

A 25-year NBA officiating veteran, Steve Javie has transitioned to ESPN, where he offers in-game analysis on referee rulings from the NBA Replay Center.

Bailey Knecht

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Photo Credit: Bailey Knecht

During Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Finals between the Warriors and the Trail Blazers, the NBA Replay Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, is relatively quiet.

On any given night in the regular season, current and former officials converge to watch multiple live games on the room’s more than 100 TV screens and computer monitors. With only four teams remaining in the playoffs, all eyes are on the Warriors and Blazers.

One of those observers is Steve Javie, a former NBA referee of 25 years and current ESPN officiating analyst since 2012. Front Office Sports has a front row seat for his process.

Throughout the playoffs and select regular season games, Javie is on-call in Secaucus. When on-court officials are reviewing a controversial call, Javie jumps on ESPN, offering explanations and rule clarifications.

READ MORE: ESPN Reasserting Commitment to Baseball through Revamped Baseball Tonight

“It’s a good thing with ESPN because it gives another perspective, and I know the [broadcasters] I work with like Mike Breen and Jeff [Van Gundy] and Mark [Jackson], they’re knowledgeable, but you still want an opinion of someone who’s been on the floor,” Javie says. “They might disagree with me, and they do at times, but at least I can give that opinion or how it feels to be on the floor or what the officials are thinking or looking at right now in order to make this crucial call.”

The Replay Center is used to provide different camera angles to the on-site officials for courtside reviews. With a twist of a knob and a push of a button, operators can select the best angles and queue up any sequence from  game action.

Just like the referees and operators in the room, Javie sits at one of the room’s 20 stations where he rewinds and rewatches plays from nine different angles. At his station, he keeps Altoids, a cup of water, a notepad and a current NBA rulebook. He preps by writing down talking points, relevant rules and potentially controversial calls.

When the ESPN crew wants his opinion, he’ll get word from on-site producer Tim Corrigan. Javie then spins around in his chair to face the camera. Most calls that require explanations are subjective, such as the severity of a flagrant foul or judging between a block or charge.

“Steve’s officiating experience and knowledge brings yet another layer of expertise to our broadcasts as we document the biggest NBA games for fans,” Corrigan, officially senior coordinating producer for ESPN NBA, says. “We always try to entertain and inform our audience, and Steve helps us achieve that goal.”

READ MORE: WNBA Targets Broader National Reach With CBS Sports Deal

Javie started working out of the Replay Center when it opened in 2014. Although he is one of a few media members with regular access to the Replay Center, Javie considers himself more of a referee than reporter. A quarter-century in officiating made him an eternal part of the refereeing fraternity.

“Once an official, always an official,” he says.“That doesn’t mean I won’t comment on situations I believe I would handle it this way, which may be differently than the way they handled it on the floor, because it is really subjective.

“It’s almost like a father watching their kids because a lot of the guys I mentored are refereeing now, and you want them to do well, so when things go a little off, my insides turn,” he adds. “If that was me on the court, I wouldn’t care because I know I could handle it, but when you see your kids, as I call it, that you’ve raised, and you see them get into situations, you just hope they get out of it okay.”

This year, Javie’s role with ESPN may be even more useful than before. The season has been full of debate regarding officiating and the tumultuous relationship between referees and players.

Take the Western Conference Semifinals, for example, when everyone from fans to players to GMs chimed in on James Harden’s foul-drawing playing style.

But Javie embraces the opportunity to be a voice of reason and provide clarification to viewers, who otherwise have no access to the officiating thought process.

“I think it’s really good for the league and for the referees, that the referee has a voice there that can explain it because so many times, I think the fans can be misled,” he says.

Although Game 2 featured a tight, three-point win by the Warriors, the matchup was clean and uncontentious. As a result, Javie wasn’t called on by ESPN to share his input, but he stayed focused and alert throughout the evening.

For Javie, the rest of the playoffs will be no different, as he remains ready to share his expertise at a moment’s notice, notepad, rulebook and Altoids on call.

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