NCAA oversteps its boundaries

Joshua Haywood

Contributing Writer

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is overreaching its authority as a regulatory organization when it comes to students’ conduct off the field, specifically in the realm of social media. Two recent suspensions handed down by the organization acted as a response to two players’ posts on Twitter and have started a controversy over what role, if any, the NCAA should play in monitoring player conduct in the social media arena.

It played out similar to a case of states’ rights versus federal authority in which each individual university represents a state in the union who has established their own unique set of rules. The NCAA acts as the federal government, which can place sanctions on organizations, as well as individual players who break rules set forth by the organization’s by-laws. Recently, Lehigh wide receiver Ryan Spadola and Stony Brook linebacker Matt Faiella were suspended over a tweet that Faiella, whose account at the time was set to private, posted that Spadola subsequently retweeted and happened to contain a racial epithet. The tweet was not directed at anyone in particular but was rather a response to Faiella’s friend, in regard to an opposing player supposedly talking trash. The NCAA determined this comment to be inappropriate, thus suspending the involved students.

“This was a very unfortunate incident, but racially insensitive characterizations are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The offensive language of this nature by Mr. Spadola, whether intentional or not, was unsportsmanlike and discredited the championship overall,” the NCAA said.

Monitoring this behavior does not seem to be appropriate. The issue should have been left up to the school. I agree with the NCAA that the content of the tweet was inappropriate, but disagree with the suspensions because I feel as if the organization overextended its control into a player’s life off the field. There seems to be a lack of personal privacy on behalf of the NCAA, as the punishment should have ultimately fallen in the schools’ hands. Interesting enough, the NCAA does not have any official policy that establishes rules for social media use and has stated that it does not plan on establishing such rules any time soon. This being said, nothing could have changed the outcome other than the NCAA reversing its decision as the organization’s power supersedes any university’s set of rules.

The NCAA is setting a dangerous precedent as the ruling monarch of college athletics. It seemingly opens Pandora’s Box as to how much power the organization has over college athletics and a player’s right to freedom of expression, as well as defining what level of personal privacy is to be expected. The ruling in this case was not based upon a set guideline, but rather on the organization’s discretion. The NCAA is trampling over a university’s right to control their own students and is totally unwarranted in their suspension of the two players, leaving more questions than answers. What if people in the situation changed and the players involved had been of the other race? Would the event’s final outcome been different? Who is the NCAA to even define what players can and cannot say off the field, and what is their justification behind it? What will this mean for future student athletes who are active social media users?

When all the dust settles and the smoke clears, the precedent set by the NCAA is too overpowering and takes away the ability to determine proper conduct from the university. I am not condoning what was tweeted in any way, but I do believe that the right to free speech and privacy greatly outweighs the NCAA’s control over player expression.

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