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WASHINGTON SQUARE NEWS | MONDAY, JANUARY 23, 2017 | NYUNEWS.COM

SPORTS

EDITED BY RACHEL RUECKER SPORTS@NYUNEWS.COM

NYU Athletics Can Learn From Trump By MIGUEL DE LAVEAGA Contributing Writer

VIA YOUTUBE.OM

When 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem, he started a controversial discussion on the intersection of politics and sports.

Politics Belong In Sports

By SIERRA JACKSON Co-Managing Editor

Last year, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines when he knelt during the customary performance of the U.S. national anthem before a game. Kaepernick claimed that he did so to protest the mistreatment of black people at the hands of the police and the government. The football player’s act sparked a national debate over whether sports and politics should intersect. As it has become more apparent that the professional sports industry is plagued by the same issues of discrimination that characterized Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, political agendas and messages have begun to play a bigger role in U.S. professional sports. In 2016, the U.S. Women’s National Team accused the United States Soccer Federation of paying the female team significantly less than their male counterparts, despite USWNT’s victory in the 2015 FIFA World Cup. In the complaint the team filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the women’s team cited that it received $2 million for its win in 2015 whereas the men’s team received $9 million despite only reaching the 16th round of the 2014 World Cup. The complaint also showed that while the women would receive a $75,000 bonus per player for first place, the men’s team would receive roughly $390,625 per player for winning first place. While this gap is often justified by arguing that the women’s team brings in less revenue than the men’s team, USWNT

clearly has the potential to attract more revenue. The final match of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which reached 23 million viewers, was the most-watched soccer match in U.S. history. Rather than being a question of USWNT’s ability to bring in revenue, it’s instead a question of the public’s desire to support female teams the same way they support male teams. Yet, it is unfair that female players should be discriminated against so blatantly because of the public’s disinterest. With such damning evidence, it would be impossible to separate the issue of sexism from this aspect of professional sports. The complaint made by USWNT shows how political movements can bleed into popular culture by revealing the prevalence of the desire for gender equality. Homophobia has also had a constant presence throughout the U.S. professional sports industry. A study done by Out of the Fields revealed that 84 percent of gay men and 82 percent of lesbians had heard homophobic slurs used in locker rooms. Although some argue that people do not always uses these slurs with homophobic intent in mind, derogatory comments make LGBTQ athletes more unwilling and afraid to come out to their teammates. The only way to address these incidents of discrimination is to point it out, and as Kaepernick showed with his protest, social and political movements have been very effective at starting discussions that lead to change. In 2015, the Cover the Athlete campaign sought to demonstrate the ridiculous ways that

female athletes are treated by creating a video that parodied how male athletes would respond if asked the questions female athletes often hear. During the 2016 Summer Olympics, several publications and commentators were accused of covering female athletes in a sexist manner because they focused on the women’s personal lives and appearances instead of their performances. Movements like these have become increasingly prevalent in sports, with many major sports leagues and social movements even working together to point out and punish troubling behavior among athletes. In April 2016, the NHL — pushed by the You Can Play Project, an organization co-founded by the NHL Safety Director to support LGBTQ athletes — suspended Andrew Shaw, the former Chicago Blackhawks forward, after Shaw was heard making homophobic slurs to the referee. This new precedent reflects the growth of the LGBTQ rights movement and its incorporation into all aspects of society, including sports. Political statements made by athletes reflect the growth of social movements that have gained popularity in the U.S. By using their public status and popularity to spread political messages, athletes show the public that the same topics discussed at dinner tables, presidential debates and rallies are relevant to sports as well. Acts of protest are so important because they publicize that change is desired and needed in the sometimes insular sports community. Email Sierra Jackson at sjackson@nyunews.com

While NYU is not known as an athletic school — a reputation that precedes itself both online and on campus — the NYU athletic department still attracts many fans, and the school continues to make a push for its online following, especially on Twitter. Hence, the almost athletic effort NYU invests into social media accounts is akin to the effort required to play a sport. But Twitter’s popularity is increasingly difficult in today’s fake news world, where many people consider what they read online to be dubious. Many sites dedicate themselves to correcting people’s misinformation, but the accessibility of reliable online news is difficult to maintain. Twitter feeds into that problem by reinforcing a strict limit of 140 characters or less per post — also known as a tweet — that centers around quick and easy information. This short form limits users to incomplete thoughts that convey ambiguous or confusing messages. And there is no better example than our newly inaugurated president, Donald Trump, who tweets from his @realDonaldTrump account, as well as select tweets from the @POTUS account, with a following of over 20 million people. Trump sends Twitter blasts multiple times a day, which frequently contain messages that make it easy for both supporters and critics to share, comment and retweet. These messages are then covered by news outlets, which help him reach millions more people. But beneath the business, political and popularity objectives evident in Trump’s tweets, for those seeking a larger following, there are effective social media strategies underlying his strange Twitter habits. Ever since 2011, Trump has posted regularly from his account and has not gone a week without tweeting. His consistency and regularity proves that in the confusion that is Twitter — with more than 300 million users and an even greater avalanche of tweets — you have to set yourself apart by building an audience through regular tweeting. Although this is a simple trick, NYU sports’ Twitter accounts can learn from this. Surveying these various Twitter accounts, those with more

posts also have a larger following. Women’s basketball, men’s hockey and the main athletics account are among the most active, and they consistently remain engaged with a variety of tactics, such as tweeting live updates. These pages have hundreds of followers and garner many retweets and likes, while some of their dormant counterparts have much less engagement and have seen almost no activity within the past year. Another way NYU could grow its following is to strengthen its branding and to keep its content consistent. Similar to his habit of calling many things “sad,” Trump also repeatedly used “great,” lightweight,” and “nasty” on his Twitter feed throughout the election cycle. While he is not the first to use this technique, it is effective in curating shareable and recognizable content. While using him as an example does not mean NYU Twitter accounts should turn towards using controversial language and negative terms to describe people, things and situations, it could create an internal, uniform dictionary of terms. One easy example would be to reference a player consistently as an “MVP” rather than switching from “best player” to “star,” which gives the audience a keyword to find. Assistant Swimming Coach Hank Browning operates an active Twitter account, and he thinks that it presents many outlets to grow a following. “Twitter is an appropriate way of giving and getting instant feedback from both a receiving and giving end,” Browning said. “Instant information is a positive thing, and that includes NYU swimming and Twitter.” By increasing feedback and interaction, NYU sports’ Twitter accounts can strengthen audience engagement by running polls, replying to tweets and hosting giveaways. This instant gratification method will incentivize people to follow the Twitter accounts and promote the teams to students and fans alike. Twitter is an effective way to send messages, grow a following and solidify a brand, so with such a solid tool at hand, NYU Athletics has a great opportunity to reach both old and new fans. Email Miguel de Laveaga at sports@nyunews.com.

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The NYU Women's Basketball Twitter account consistently updates about the team, including when they walked for Breast Cancer Awareness.

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