Philadelphia. A place that some call “The City of Brotherly Love”. Also, a place that most know to be home to the most passionate yet critical sports fans in the world. Every athlete knows that playing in Philly is a different beast, and any player who has ever put on a Sixers uniform knows the pressure of performing for this dedicated fanbase. Before the world of the internet, players only had to deal with this pressure in person. Media slander, of course, has always been around, but when you add in sports fans’ heavy social media presence, it becomes something else entirely. Players have often been outspoken about what it’s like to play in Philadelphia, but one thing that I don’t think is talked about enough is the pressure that sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit can put on athletes.
Twitter is where I want to take us today, a social media platform that oftentimes seems like a world of its own. Pockets of twitter that are heavily saturated with fans of certain leagues and or teams get nicknames. There is “NBA Twitter” and “76ers Twitter”. Little online cities where fans can easily express their thoughts on games, players, media and more. Angry about a player not living up to your expectations? Hop on Twitter. Upset with a call? Tweet away! Not only can you vent, but you can interact with others who may feel the same way. In certain aspects, the world of social media is amazing for sports. It’s a way for people to unite, to come together and share their passions. A way for players and fans to interact, especially during a global pandemic where some fans aren’t able to attend games in person. The disconnect, however, of the real world and an online world can turn ugly fast, especially for the players that are on the receiving end of strict criticism.
One player that is oftentimes on the ugliest end of hateful rhetoric is Ben Simmons. Arguably one of the best players in the league, Simmons is consistently slandered for “not producing”. Not only do fans and haters alike have a lot to say about his presence on the court, but his personal life is often heavily discussed as well. This past week, Ben spoke to Tyler Tynes of GQ and understandably, had quite a lot to say.
“The thing with people is that they think they know something soooo well. And this guy thinks he knows basketball sooo well,” he stated.
“And that may be because he watches the games but does he really know the game? Did he grow up playing the game? Has he been in different situations, has he run the point guard position, has he played at this level? Like, everybody wants to feel like they know the game. And that’s just not the case. Draymond [Green] says it all the time. That’s not the case. Not everybody knows everything about something or as much as they think they know.”
Tyler then went to bring up online criticism, and Simmons simply stated that he just doesn’t go on Twitter anymore.
“When I first came into the league, I read a lot more of it. But I’m at the stage now where I try to ignore everybody. I don’t go on Twitter. I don’t read too much into what people are saying about me. I don’t watch ESPN. I don’t watch SportsCenter, none of that. They’ll tell you, if someone puts ESPN in my house it’s going straight off.”
Like all things in life, there are good and bad aspects to “NBA Twitter.” I’ve seen amazing friendships form on the app, talented creators get the recognition they deserve, and fantastic media shared with millions of people that may not have seen that content without the internet. The bad side, however, is very real and can be damaging to athletes mental health. All in all, I think it’s important to take a second to think before you tweet. You never know who may be reading it.
(Photo illustration/The Washington Post)