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We’ve all done it.

Said something unnecessarily nasty in a bad mood, vented frustration or tested the waters with a controversial statement. We’re human, it happens. Hopefully, when these rare occasions do arise, all parties involved can forget and forgive and move on.

Do this on social media, though, and things are a little different. Any temporary slips are published for all to see, ready to be shared, screenshot and re-visited whenever your followers so wish. Just a single offensive tweet, as some sporting hopefuls of the future are finding out, could come back and haunt your career before it’s even begun.

Just last week Deportivo La Coruña prospect, Julio Rey, had his transfer to the club axed despite the deal already being announced, after an abusive tweet was unearthed. The player posted “puta Depor” (“F**k Depor”) on his Twitter account three years ago. It’s a comment probably heard in its thousands at a match or screamed at the TV but because it was published, Rey has been cemented as having made the comment and now it’s public knowledge. If the club went ahead with the deal, their reputation would be damaged.

Recently, another young athlete that almost fell foul to a historic tweet. Graduate basketball player, Larry Nance Jr., was mere minutes into celebrating being picked for the Los Angeles Lakers when a tweet about a new teammate was circulated. The comment, made three years ago, referred to legal allegations against Kobe Bryant and was favourited thousands of times after news broke that they’d be playing on the same team. Nance was luckily forgiven by Bryant and kept his spot in the team but many others haven’t been so lucky.

It’s now accepted protocol – see a potential new employee and look them up online.

It’s the quickest way of getting a snapshot of the person you might be working with. You can view their photos, see how they spend their time and the way they interact with others. The odd slip can be forgiven but if a pattern emerges, you’ll do well to stay clear. By employing this person they will, of course, become an ambassador for your company. You need to be able to rely on how they’ll behave.

When your employer is an international athletics team or a high-profile sports club, what you say online becomes an even more serious business. These organisations get a huge amount of following, anything their associates say has a knock-on effect on their reputation. And it’s not just future employees screening for blunders. News channels and papers, favouring pantomime, will inevitably search for anything that makes a good story.

As written thoughts gradually sink down your feed, hidden by new tweets, it’s hard to remember that they’re not gone for good. It’s a lesson to all of us. As NFL player, J. J. Watt advices…

“Read each tweet about 95 times before sending it…A reputation takes years and years and years to build, and it takes one press of a button to ruin.”

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