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The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

Syracuse’s Chris McCullough Declares for the NBA: Twitter Reacts – UPDATED

Syracuse freshman Chris McCullough has announced his decision to declare for the draft. Five months ago that would not have surprised anyone, but given his season-ending ACL tear, many optimistic ‘Cuse fans thought that he would return for some Unfinished Business and help to anchor a formidable front-court.
McCullough certainly has the size/skillset that NBA teams value, but because of his injury and shortened-season at Syracuse (plus his limitations for when he could return in December) many see this decision as risky at best. His draft stock is projected anywhere in the late 1st round to early 2nd round, whereas staying in college for another year and improving his game could have him finish in the Lottery next year. Unfortunately for McCullough, the NCAA’s rules are prohibitive for allowing 18/19-year olds to make life-changing decisions, but that is an argument for another day.
There was much ado on the interwebs as people used this opportunity to voice their displeasure on Twitter, causing a mini-debate on whether this is acceptable behavior.

Specifically, there were calls by reporters and bloggers who, safely perched on their high horses, instructed others to only use Twitter to wish McCullough well and not to hurl insults at him.
It’s a nice sentiment, but raises the question: Do we really need to coddle and protect professional athletes from the Big Bad Internet?
First, let’s make one important distinction: I abhor the idea of insulting recruits, current college athletes, or anyone with amateur status. Calling a 17 year old nasty names, or wishing them pain/injury because they chose to go to another school is not cool. Likewise, getting bent Wookies because your favorite college player missed a game winning shot, or called an ill-advised Time Out resulting in technical foul, is not fair. These are kids that are pretty much playing for free, while the NCAA, Universities, and Corporations make billions of dollars off of them. The last thing they need is some random jackhole letting them know how they impacted your ability to celebrate a win.
However, I can’t support the idea that fans need to censor themselves and only send positive feelings toward a professional player. As Michael Corleone said, “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business” and that especially applies when a professional (or soon-to-be professional athlete) makes a business decision.
Look, I fully believe that if you don’t have something nice to say to someone, then don’t say it at all. Or in my case, say it behind their backs, hope they don’t find out, and then vehemently deny it if confronted. But the reality is that actions have consequences, and if you want to be a jerk-face to a professional athlete, then by all means, do so. You may not like the end results, but that’s part of life.
To that same extent, Professional athletes can’t have it both ways. They can’t avail themselves to their fans and the public through Social Media, and then hope that people don’t get on their case when they make a decision that people may disagree with. That extends to Coaches, CEOs, Politicians, hell, you may not like the things your favorite sports blogger says on Twitter. If they want to use social media to gain instant access to, and support from their fans, then they have to accept the criticism that comes with it.
That’s not to say that fans have carte blanche to make threats to a player or coach, which is a problem that has existed long before Social Media. In 1961, Roger Maris received death threats from Yankees’ fans because he was on pace to break Babe Ruth’s record. Mind you, he was a Yankee at the time, meaning that he received death threats from his OWN fans that didn’t want to see him succeed. But, if fans want to boo him, or yell from the stands every time that he gets to the plate, then that’s their prerogative. Frankly, the fact that he was able to break Ruth’s record, in spite of the vitriol hurled toward him, only makes his accomplishment that much greater.
So, please spare me the “we only need to send positive thoughts” crap. If you want to be a professional player, then you have to deal with the good, and the bad. And when you make a decision that the fans disagree with, then you better be ready to face the response from the public.
Now, feel free to leave your insults and critiques below.
UPDATE: If I agree that it’s unacceptable to tweet negative feedback to a professional player, will everyone else agree that it’s pathetic to tweet poorly Photoshopped edits to recruits trying to entice them to come to your school (while using that recruit as an excuse to restore a retired number)? 

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