Social media is a part of daily life for an entire generation of people. Billions of humans are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have hundreds of millions of accounts and Snapchat is fast turning into one of the biggest networks in the world. NFL players and other celebrities are not exempt from this dynamic, and they have the added advantage of being able to use social media to promote themselves. With that, they also have the ability to self-destruct publicly.
That's exactly what Austin Seferian-Jenkins did over the weekend. On Friday, he got kicked out of practice by Dirk Koetter, apparently for lining up in the wrong place. Fans heckled the already beleaguered Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end: two years of disappointing production, mostly caused by injury, and a couple of unfortunate moments on the field have turned him into the new most-hated player among Bucs fans.
"Come to 1 buc at 2 pm Monday and say something bout mother and I promise u. 1. You'll be trespassing 2. You'll eat through a straw" is one of the things he tweeted, after fans heckled him. That tweet, of course, got deleted — and instead of apologizing for threatening a fan, which is definitely out of line, he wrote it off as just being ‘heated’.
Guys lol chill ..... It gets heated it's football we all brothers out here. Shit happens.— Austin Seferian J (@Aesj88) June 9, 2016
Getting a horde of fans after you is no fun, and fans frequently cross the line themselves, but that doesn't mean we can write off an overreaction as "shit happens". Reacting to Twitter harassment by threatening folks with physical violence is no good. That may make players and other targets of harassment feel powerless, because Twitter is terrible at stopping their users from crossing the line. But that, unfortunately, is life as a public person on social media right now. You cannot react the way so many people with much smaller audiences react routinely. You can’t be Chad on The Bachelorette. Players have to deal with that — or their agents have to do a better job of managing their players’ social media activities.
All in all, this is turning into a very weird offseason for Seferian-Jenkins. He’s still got all the talent in the world, but he keeps getting into these controversies that actually have very little to do with his ability to actually play the game of football. NFL teams and fans will put up with a lot of stuff, as long as it means getting some production on the field. If this massively talented tight end can put it together, stay healthy, and consistently produce, all will be forgiven and forgotten before long.