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Politics, Social Media, and Your Professional Presence

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Election season is upon us. Should you share your views on social media? Photo via History.com

By: Joe Londergan, @Joehio_

As Election Day gets closer, more and more Americans have made up their minds on several sociocultural issues the nation currently faces along with the potential candidates for elected offices. Furthermore, people from all walks of life are voicing those opinions on social media. Thus a dilemma is created for current and aspiring sports professionals: can you express your personal political views or commentary on your public social feeds?

It’s no secret we live in a divided country, so how do you mitigate the risk of alienating part of your audience? Sports and public relations professionals who were kind enough to give us their time opened up about this issue and all the nuance that goes along with it.

Traditionally, avoiding conflict on social media has coincided with avoiding the two things that have been stirring the socio-cultural pot for centuries: politics and religion. Admittedly, whatever your perspective is, not everyone is going to agree with your opinion. Anytime that happens, the door opens for people to tune out or actively attempt to discredit you. However, the narrative of how to address current events and cultural issues is beginning to shift.

Kevin DeShazo, Founder of Fieldhouse Media, frequently conducts social media education sessions with collegiate student-athletes all over the country. During these sessions, DeShazo advises student-athletes to handle sensitive topics like this with care.

“Our message to student-athletes is if you have a perspective, and you are educated, then by all means engage because you have a voice that needs to be heard. I would argue on some of these things, whether it be this election cycle or the Black Lives Matter movement or police violence, silence is the worst case scenario.

But you need to be educated before you speak. If you just tweet or post out of emotion, then A: you may be wrong and not have all the facts, and B: you’ll actually create more of a distraction and make the situation worse. Make sure it isn’t strictly an opinion, but that you’ve done your research and you can back up whatever your opinion may be. If you fully believe in your position, then go for it. However, don’t just put things out there just to add noise to the conversation.”

On top of being completely educated about an issue before you speak (or type, in this case), keep in mind that what you say reflects on people besides yourself. Namely, your organization. Samantha Hughey, Audience Engagement Editor at the United States Olympic Committee, speaks to the importance of this.

“Are you at a company that is strongly tied to one affiliation or another (think sponsor conflicts in this case)? Does your company have any rules or regulations that can limit what you are putting on social media? Where are you in your career (searching for jobs, in between jobs, etc.)? Understand what you are typing out and how it will effect those around you and how it will effect people’s perspective of you prior to hitting tweet or share.”

In a preemptive attempt to lessen how what they say reflects on their employer, people will put phrases such as, “opinions are my own” in their social bios. “It’s a complete waste of time,” DeShazo says.

“For one, there’s a difference between an employer endorsing your views and accepting them. To be fair, athletic departments employ people with a variety of views across any number of spectrums. They hire based on skill set and character.

But if you go in to a job and you’re just spewing racist hate or sexist hate or whatever it may be on your social feeds that people from your job can see, that might not be related to your ability to do your job in any way. But it is A: giving the company a bad image, and B: offending people in your workplace. Of course your views don’t necessarily reflect your employer, but they’re going to impact the way you do your job and the way you form relationships within that organization.”

A particular section of sports professionals that catches a heavy amount of criticism for attempting to enter the political conversation are journalists and members of the broadcast media. “Stick to sports” is the usual rallying cry of those who don’t want to see their favorite writer or personality address politics.

Michael Ryan Ruiz, Executive Producer of ESPN’s Dan Le Batard Show, has worked alongside the show’s host for nearly a decade and they have rarely shied away from addressing relevant social topics. In the process, they have proven to be a rare breed of sports show that successfully walks that tight rope more often than not.

“You have to think what’s the ‘risk versus the reward?’ Our show especially, we like to address the bigger topics and ESPN trusts Dan with that that based on how he’s done with those in the past. We don’t speak to it in terms of picking sides. We address it on a very macro level because there’s an important sociological discussion to be had.”

While Ruiz and Le Batard have done well to prove they can handle these topics, it catches the general public off guard when other sports writers and broadcasters try to do something similar. Dr. Karen Freberg, University of Louisville communications professor and social media education specialist, has noticed this trend and its peculiarity.

“I think it is interesting to see how some in the media are told to stick to one topic and that’s it for their profiles. If that was the case for me as a professor, I’d only be allowed to talk about research and teaching, which is good, but that’s not all of what I do. I find these expectations should be ‘guidelines.’

You want to share insights based on your expertise, but you also want to show your community you are passionate and interested in other things. That’s what social media is all about. Imagine if you were at a party and could only talk to your fellow friends about one subject — what would happen with the conversation? The same applies to social media. You have to be open to balance all of these different topics, conversations, and relationships to help foster a strong community.”

All in all, the collective consciousness of the sport industry has begun to recognize that sport and politics are undeniably intertwined. For that reason, the latter has become all the more difficult to ignore in the social media space. There is the undeniable benefit of less headache from staying away from these sociocultural discussions. However, if you feel the need to offer your voice and perspective to the conversation, be prepared to back it up.

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Kyrie Irving Expected to Sign with Roc Nation

Kyrie Irving is expected to sign with Roc Nation, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

Michael McCarthy

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Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving is expected to sign with Roc Nation, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

Irving, who was most recently repped by Jeffrey Wechsler of 24/7 Sports Management, joins an NBA client roster at Roc Nation that includes the likes of Kevin Durant, Josh Hart, Justise Winslow, Danny Green and Caris LeVert.

The switch in representation comes on the same day that Irving took the first step toward his prospective free agency this summer.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Irving is not opting into his $21.3 million contract for the 2019-20 season and will become an unrestricted free agent.

By not opting into his contract, Irving can sign with any NBA team when free agency opens on Sunday, June 30th.

If he signs with a team other than the Celtics, he will be eligible to sign a max deal worth $139 million over four years.

If he were to stay with the Celtics, Irving can sign a five-year deal worth $188 million.

An industry source speculated that Roc Nation could be waiving the fees on Irving’s contract in order to retain his marketing rights.

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Meet the WNBA’s New Boss

Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert will become the first commissioner of the WNBA and the first woman to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

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

For the first time ever, the WNBA will have a commissioner. Before now, all of the league’s previous leaders like Val Ackerman and Lisa Borders were given the title of president. 

Cathy Engelbert, the current CEO of Deloitte, will take control of the role on July 17th and will report directly to Adam Silver. 

What should you know?

1. By the time she is done at Deloitte, Engelbert will have spent more time at the company (33 years) than the WNBA has been a league (23 years)

2. Engelbert is the first female to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

3. She is the fifth person to lead the league after Val Ackerman (1997-2005), Donna Orender (2005-10), Laurel Richie (2011-15) and Lisa Borders (2016-2018)

4. Engelbert has spent the past four years in charge of Deloitte’s U.S. operation.

Basketball is in her blood…

Although she might be an accountant by trade, Engelbert is no stranger to the game of basketball. 

According to Bob Hille of Sporting News, she played at Lehigh for Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw and was a team captain as a senior. Her father Kurt also played and was drafted in 1957 by the Pistons.

What are they saying?

“Cathy is a world-class business leader with a deep connection to women’s basketball, which makes her the ideal person to lead the WNBA into its next phase of growth. The WNBA will benefit significantly from her more than 30 years of business and operational experience including revenue generation, sharp entrepreneurial instincts and proven management abilities.” – Adam Silver on the hiring of Engelbert

“I think that’s probably one of the reasons I was selected for this role, to come in and bring a business plan to build the WNBA into a real business and a thriving business, quite frankly.” – Engelbert to ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel

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Adam Silver Wants More Gender Diversity

The NBA commissioner states his desire to get more women into the sports industry. The NBA currently has a 31.6 percent ratio of women in team management.

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Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

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

If Adam Silver has his way, 50 percent of the new incoming NBA officials will be women.

That number applies to coaches too, Silver said speaking at the Economic Club of Washington.

How do the leagues stack up?

The following numbers, outside of MLB, come from 2018 reports put together by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. MLB is the first league to have a report done on it this year.

1. NBA – 31.6% of team management are women / 37.2% of team professional admins are women

2. NFL – 22.1% of team senior admins are women / 35% of team professional admins are women

3. MLB – 28.6% of team senior admins are women / 26% of team professional admins are women

4. MLS – 26.5% of team senior admins are women / 31.6% of team professional admins are women

5. WNBA – 48.6% of team VPs and above are women / 58% of team managers to senior directors are women

6. NHL – No report done

Quotes from Silver… 

“It’s an area, frankly, where I’ve acknowledged that I’m not sure how it was that it remained so male-dominated for so long. Because it’s an area of the game where physically, certainly, there’s no benefit to being a man, as opposed to a woman, when it comes to refereeing.”

“The goal is going forward, it should be roughly 50-50 of new officials entering in the league. Same for coaches, by the way. We have a program, too. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball.”

That’s not all Silver wants to see change…

Silver, who has been adamant about getting rid of the one-and-done rule, provided some clarity as to when that might be achieved.

According to the commissioner, the 2022 NBA Draft will likely be the first one since the 2005 NBA Draft to allow high school players to go straight into the league rather than playing a season in college first.

Citing “active discussions” with the NBPA, Silver noted that they are still “a few years away.”

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