Let's imagine for a second that you're working for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1984 and the internet is barely a gleam in its mother's eye. Or we can say you work for the Flyers, since that's hockey and it ties into the blog, kind of, and you'll be more interested in reading this entire post if we're talking hockey.
OK, so you're working for the Flyers in '84. The Flyers decide to go ahead and trade Darryl Sittler to the Detroit Red Wings for Murray Craven and Joe Paterson. In the long run, that trade worked out for the Flyers, but hey, Future Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler is still Future Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler and you, being a Flyers fan and all, aren't too pleased about it. So, you get a little angry and write anonymously on the notepad on the company fridge [sic'd] "Trading Sittler to Detroit... Dam Flyers R Retarted!!"
Long story short, your boss finds out that you wrote that and isn't too pleased. Maybe it's a bit harsh, but they fire you for it. You're pissed, naturally. Who wouldn't be? Maybe you were pretty good at your job and your boss is on the crazy side.
Well, that's kind of what happened to Dan Leone who worked for the Eagles and is a fan of the team. The difference between Dan and our Fictional Flyers Employee (Bon Jovi hair and all!) is that he works in football and didn't write anything on the fridge. Instead, he left his note on his Facebook status. (If you're not sure what that is, it's kind of like Twitter but is a small part of the entirety of a person's Facebook profile.) You can read all about Dan here and here, but that's the gist of the story. Of course, Dan feels he was wrong and now it's gotten enough media attention to the point where the story was on SportsCenter this evening.
There are a lot of people in one corner saying that this is a tad extreme (arguably) and, as Michael Wilbon on ESPN's PTI said (paraphrasing here), it's excusable because it's only Facebook. I can understand that line of thinking and don't completely disagree, but it is a tad simplistic and a bit outdated.
Come on, people. Wake up and smell the technology and changing social environment.
Everything you post on the web is visible to everyone and you can be held responsible for it especially if you put it there.
Things are different now than they were in 1984. Hell, they're much different than they were in 1999. When you choose to be visible on the internet, for better or worse, you are stuck with the decisions you make. I may write on this dopey hockey blog and it's all in good fun, but if I call my employer "retarted" for all to see there may be some consequences.
Everyone can be a public figure nowadays. That is no longer something reserved for movie stars and high profile athletes. Now, thanks to MySpace, Facebook and everything else that is out there, you can be a public figure, too. The biggest public figures have PR reps and agents. Us -- the masses -- do not. We are our own agents and PR people. Ultimately, we decide what we put on the internet. If it's something that could get you in trouble, then that's the risk you take.
Get caught for saying something dumb about your employer or worse, making racially motivated threats towards the President?
Sorry, you've got no one else to blame but yourself.
The Eagles are not the bad guys in this case. They did not change their employee's Facebook status to something derogatory towards them. They did not make him post any of his mini-rant (that they Bryan Dawkins in the first place is not a legit excuse).
Everyday by putting my thoughts on this blog and attaching my name to it, I'm setting myself up for public scrutiny. Hopefully, we all realize that this blog is pretty much one big joke and don't take anything too seriously. Despite that, I'm still responsible for what's on here. For better or worse my friends, family and employers past and present can see it. Hopefully, they see that we're doing good things here, as I tricked the folks at FanHouse into thinking. But if I go out and call my boss some not-so-choice words, well, sucks to be me and I have to live with the consequences.
Now, our good friend Dan who got fired by the Eagles is saying they overreacted and has apologized profusely. That's all well and good and owning up to your mistake is commendable. And heck, maybe they made an example out of him since he is a low-level employee. Who knows. But part of life is accepting the responsibility for your actions. When you make a mistake, sorry only gets you so far. You're still going to have to own up to the fact that there's no taking back what you've done (unless you have a time machine, in which case let me know cause I would like some do-overs).
One other point here is the odd angle these things always take on when a sports organization is involved. For some reason, they're supposed to be more forgiving. I guess in such publicly visible organizations that can represent an entire city, that is the case. But there are a lot of unwritten rules about working in the sports industry that outsiders may not know about and I think that changes some people's thinking in relation to stories such as these. In this industry, team work gets a much higher priority. Sure, at your job you may do all those team building exercises that everyone in the office thinks are dumb, but in athletics, the ideal of teamwork and 'being a part of the team' is put on a pedestal. Secrets need to be kept. Proverbial cats need to be kept in their proverbial bags. And, most importantly, everyone needs to be a part of the team. No excuses or exceptions.
In this case, even if we call it a minor infraction, Dan stepped outside of those lines. When you knowingly and purposefully do that, what happens next is no one else's fault.