Less than 24 hours before the NFL draft, former University of Wyoming Quarterback and NFL hopeful Josh Allen got caught in a controversy over his social media accounts.
Allen ended the night as a Buffalo Bill, being selected by the New York organization as the 7th pick overall, and the third quarterback selected in the draft.
But the talk about Allen leading up to those final draft moments wasn’t exclusively about his arm strength or about his accuracy…it was also about his character. The night before the draft, someone leaked deleted tweets from Allen’s social media account that had some racial undertones. They were posted by Allen when he was 14 or 15, years before he would go on to be a standout at the University of Wyoming and the talk of the draft. Allen and his agent had even combed through his social media accounts earlier in the year, deleting anything someone else could take offense too.
It wasn’t enough.
Somewhere, someone beat them to it. They recorded the tweets and waited until the timing was right to hurt Josh Allen the most…hours before draft day.
Was that sneaky and underhanded? Absolutely. Do I think Josh Allen is a quality young man who will go on to do great things in the NFL? No doubt. Like many of us, Allen did some dumb and insensitive things when he was a kid. I don’t think it’s fair to let his actions as a 15 year old kid speak than the character he demonstrated as a leader and talent while in college. I was impressed by how he handled it. Allen apologized for the mistake and owned his actions. And not once did he cry foul about the timing or shadiness of their release. He owned it.
But now he has to wonder…did it affect the outcome of his future?
There’s a lesson here I hope our FFA members will take to heart…you never know who is watching. Parents, business leaders, sponsors, future employers, coaches, potential teammates…once something is posted on social media, it becomes fair game for anyone’s prying eyes. Even texts you believe are private can be captured and saved.
One of the metaphors I like to use in talking about social media is that it’s a lot like a tube of toothpaste. Once squeezed out, it can’t be put back in effectively. Or more succinctly, once tweeted…not always deleted.
So keep your posts positive. Use appropriate humor, polite language and good taste. If you choose to post something political, understand how sometimes that invites contentious discussion. And know that just because people don’t react to what you post in the present doesn’t always mean it doesn’t reflect on how they think about you in the future.
Josh Allen will no doubt go on to have a successful NFL career. But there will be fans who, no matter how many wins he scores his team, will never view him the same after seeing those tweets. He has lost their respect and more importantly, their trust.
Growing up, being in FFA and interacting with the world has changed dramatically since I wore the blue and gold jacket more than twenty years ago. You FFA members deal with situations regarding technology and social media that weren’t even on my radar screen back then. Our state advisor used to communicate with my team by hand-written letters sent in the mail, y’all! I imagine it must sometimes feel like you are living in a fish bowl.
So yes, it’s probably hard to not feel exposed and critiqued at every turn. Even if you don’t put things on social media, you can’t control what your friends or family post about you.
But that’s the point…the only way to not be misrepresented on social media is to act with character and integrity in your everyday life. If you don’t act like an immature, classless dunderhead offline, you can’t be represented as one online.
Not all of us are a Josh Allen. You and I probably won’t ever have millions of dollars on the line over six-year-old tweets. But our online presence could cost us a friend. A chapter or state office. A job. A business deal.
So be cognizant of what you are posting. Review your social media accounts periodically and delete anything not in keeping with your true character. Make sure what you post, tweet or text represents you well now…and ten years from now.
Don’t let your social media accounts stand in the way of your future.
Teresa Milner is the Media Relations Coordinator for the Wyoming FFA Association, and served as the 1995-1996 Wyoming State Secretary.