Social media is a double-edged sword, at best, athlete have been finding out ever more and more over the course of the past decade. While it’s been a phenomenal tool to help them build their brand, it also puts them into direct access to a lot of the vitriol that is out there they otherwise would have been able to avoid.
Some athletes handle it all better than others. Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has pretty consistently been a part of the ‘others’ faction, at least for the past few years. Now in the biggest market in the game with the New York Jets, he hasn’t appeared to learn to take anonymous criticism any better.
He went on a short rant yesterday on Instagram in a two-part video while he was ascending an escalator—and then descending stairs—at an airport, decrying “social media” criticism. “I’m tired everybody telling me, ‘oh Le’Veon, you not focused. You only wanna make music. You wanna play basketball. You do everything besides play football’”.
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Now, in fairness, he has certainly heard all of those things before, and at an increasing rate since he elected not to report to the Steelers last season during a business matter that ultimately dissolved his relationship with Pittsburgh—and its fans.
“Let me tell you all something”, he went on, saying that the critics have to understand that all of their favorite people, whether it’s their parents or some celebrity or athlete, have lives beyond their profession. “You think [LeBron James] is waking up, he ain’t having no Taco Tuesdays? Bron don’t have Taco Tuesdays, you think he’s hooping all day? You think Beyoncé is waking up singing all day?”.
There is unquestionably a degree of validity to his rant, and it’s true that as “civilians” (as he later refers to somebody running down an escalator), we probably don’t know what it’s like to be subjected to a bombardment of anonymous criticism. We don’t necessarily know how we would handle it.
However, I think it’s pretty safe to say that he didn’t win many internet arguments with this video. Even his former teammate, Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, admitted that while watching it, “I was laughing so hard. I was cracking up”.
Not because he thought what Bell was saying was wrong. “I get it”, he said. “But I wouldn’t have said it”. You can’t win an argument by complaining about an opponent who is not looking for an actual engagement.
I do hope for his sake that at least it served the purpose of allowing him to blow off some steam. I wish he would have reported last year and played. I thought his comments about his former team after signing with the Jets were pretty out of line. But I don’t wish him any ill will. Especially right now as he appears to be having himself a bit of a moment. The time to shut people up is when you get back on the field, not back on Instagram.