Sportsmen you are not porn stars, stick to your footy!

Elite sportsmen cannot swipe their way out of a selfie they sexted their way in too. The damage is done!

The use of social media by elite sports organisations and their male athletes requires a rethink.

Napa, Swan, Pearce, Cloke, the Burgess Brothers, Carney, Broad and so many more contribute to the long list of online social media carnage.

We can use social media for useful purposes that enhance the quality of our lives, connect with our community and even support our team. Or we can use it recklessly under the influence of overpowering emotion, alcohol or illegal drugs. Or worse still intentionally weaponise its use with verbal and image-based abuse such as revenge porn and deep sex fakes.

Like it or not elite sportsmen are the focal point of many people’s lives and social media magnifies their accessibility.

Our young sportsmen and their administrators fail to give social media and their enabling mobile devices, due respect.

Social media can connect and reinforce the positives in life as well as seriously harm livelihoods and relationships. Either path is dependent on an individual’s choice of action.

The starting point for elite sports organisations is to understand that there will always be a group of male athletes who will fail to recognise the impact of social media on their personal and professional lives.

Why is this so?

Social media blurs personal and professional lives.

What elite sportsmen do in a bar or the bedroom at the weekend is not confined by time or physical location if they choose to post the content online. Photography, video and live streaming via their mobile device are seamless from personal to public. Even in a private WhatsApp group such content is not safe from publication. If it’s online, there is potential for public viewing when a member of the group has a motive to publish. It has multiple lives.

These athletes fail to see social media as an extension of themselves, self-assess its purpose and establish personal and professional boundaries of use. They fail to understand that when they photograph or video an intimate sexual act its life online is infinite and will be revisited on cue by anyone at any time. It is of high public interest.

They fail to establish expectations regarding what can and cannot be taken of them by their teammates and friends. They fail to comprehend the personal hurt and embarrassment they cause themselves, the other participants, their employers, their sponsors and those that look up to them. They fail to understand consent.

So what do elite sports administrators do with footy players who think they’re pornstars?

Confront the truth. Social media is both a wonder and woe. Great for marketing and connecting community, a horror for those who cannot get their head around its complexities and choose to misuse it or under the influence. You cannot have one without the other.

Elite sports organisations must treat the negative impact of social media with greater respect. They should continue to review their codes of conduct, document and publish their process of investigation to support victims, perpetrators and the public who follow their code.

They should understand where the law intersects with their organisation’s code of ethics and social media guidelines. Cases are complex and have a unique set of circumstances. Some will be legally bound others will not, making a judgement by an organisation critical.

Continue to educate. Education has to be more than a list of do’s and don’ts for elite sportsmen at the start of a season. It should be ongoing. It should include post-crisis programs for those who wish to redeem the consequences of their actions, similar to those undertaken by individuals when they are convicted of drink driving charges.

Where appropriate elite organisations must apply severe penalties and sanctions, accountability is critical to the individual and the public interest for there are too many of our youth normalising this behaviour across our schools.

Our elite sports organisations and their sponsors have justifiably high expectations of their sportsmen.

When a social media sex scandal hits the headlines, there should be an opportunity to explicitly support those athletes who wish to learn from their mistakes. For those who will never get it, they should be shown the door.