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The 2012 London Olympics are expected to set record-level social media engagement between the media, spectators and athletes. However, the level of connectedness between these groups can open up its own can of worms – including a higher level of scrutiny over the information being shared. The opening ceremony hasn’t even begun and already trouble has stirred up in the social media sphere.
After qualifying for her first Olympic games this month, triple jumper Voula Papachristou was expelled from Greece’s Olympic team on July 25 after tastelessly poking fun at African immigrants to Greece with the following tweet on July 22.
“With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food!!!”
The public tweet prompted thousands of negative comments and the country’s Olympic Committee decision to discharge her from Olympic competition because her commentary was “contrary to the values and ideals of the Olympics.”
To which Papachristou responded on July 24 first with bold retort, “That’s how I am. I laugh. I am not a CD to get stuck!!! And if I make mistakes, I don’t press the replay! I press Play and move on!!!”
Realizing the severity of her actions, Papachristou posted a series of apologetic tweets, including the following statement made in English on July 25.
“I would like to express my heartfelt apologies for the unfortunate and tasteless joke I published on my personal Twitter account. I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights. My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values. Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races. I would like to apologize to all my friends and fellow athletes, who I may have insulted or shamed, the National Team, as well as the people and companies who support my athletic career. Finally, I would like to apologize to my coach and my family.”
Unfortunately for Papachristou, her public apology was too late. The Greece Olympic Committee decided her “racist humor” would not be tolerated.
As social media strategists, we advise our clients to always think twice before posting to their company or personal social media accounts to determine if the contents of the tweet could be misinterpreted or offensive.
The London games are the first time that many Olympic athletes have been in the limelight. Papachristou’s incident serves as a good reminder to athletes – and to every public figure – that the media and the public pay close attention to the information they share on social media. Jokes are best shared in person among friends, not in writing to followers.