Athletes at the 2012 London Olympics are learning to think before they tweet. (Source: London 2012)
(RNN) – The 2012 Olympics are the first since Twitter became a worldwide phenomenon. And Olympians are fast learning the repercussions of comments they make through the social media site.
Two athletes made history by becoming the first competitors to be kicked off their countries' teams because of a tweet. The Switzerland Olympic Committee shipped home soccer player Michel Morganella, 23, for a racist statement posted on his account Monday.
One day after his team lost to South Korea, he tweeted, "I want to beat up all South Koreans! Bunch of mentally handicapped retards!"
Greek hurdler Voula Papachristou, 23, got dismissed July 25 after a comment people viewed as racist:
"So many Africans in Greece ... At least West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food," she wrote July 22.
American athletes have made controversial statements as well, although none have been severe enough to constitute disciplinary action.
On Saturday, hurdler Lolo Jones, 29, wrote on Twitter, "USA Men's Archery lost the gold medal to Italy but that's OK, we are Americans... When's da Gun shooting competition?"
Some saw her comment as insensitive in the aftermath of the July 20 mass shooting in Aurora, CO.
U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo, 31, also called attention to herself for statements toward commentator and former soccer player Brandi Chastain. Solo said Chastain needed to "lay off" talking about defense and goalkeeping, adding "the game has changed from a decade ago."
The remarks came after Chastain criticized Rachel Buehler for a turnover in the U.S.-Colombia soccer game.
"As a defender, your responsibilities are - defend," Chastain said. "Win the ball and then keep possession. And that is something that Rachel Buehler actually needs to, I think, improve on in this tournament."
Morganella and Papachristou released apologies upon learning of their dismissals. Both their Twitter accounts were taken down.
Jones amended her statement, saying she was referring to the many hunters in the U.S., but did not remove the original comment. Solo has neither apologized nor removed her comment.
The number of tasteless or hateful remarks from Olympians may be no more (and are probably far fewer) than what you would find from other cross-sections of men and women in their age group.
But the attention athletes receive on the world stage has put their words and actions under an intense microscope. Expect countries to employ stricter policies regarding social media going into future Olympic and international events.
Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
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