Is it ethical for coaches to monitor athletes social media accounts?

As a student-athlete at Longwood University myself, I thought it would be interesting to investigate the ethics of coaches monitoring athletes’ various social media accounts.  Some may say that it is a good thing for coaches to monitor these pages, as they can make sure the athlete is presenting themselves, and the team well, as if the athlete posts something inappropriate about the team, or even just something inappropriate in general, it can reflect poorly on the team or coach’s public image. However, others may argue that athletes should have the freedom to present themselves how they see fit. So the ethical dilemma I am investigating is; is it ethical for coaches to monitor their athletes’ social media accounts? With the moral agents in this situation being the coaches, as they are posed with the decision as to whether they choose to watch the athletes’ accounts, and how much they choose to interfere with these accounts.

The advantages, as stated above, of the coach monitoring the accounts would be that it would be made sure that the public image of the particular sports team would remain good, as if any material was posted that would damage this reputation, then the coach would be able to see it and make sure the inappropriate post was taken down. Another good thing about coaches following their players’ social media accounts is that the athletes then become more aware of what they are posting and whether the content is appropriate. This can be good for when future employers may potentially search these athletes up on social media as a background check. So by having no posts that are controversial, or any images that might show out of control drinking or parties, it can reflect well for the person later in life.

Some cons, however, may be that the athlete could feel uncomfortable knowing that their coach is ‘judging’ what they are posting on their own private accounts. I know a lot of people have privacy settings on their social media accounts, for example, finstas, which are private instagrams, so that certain people aren’t able to view their posts, so by having the coaches forcibly be allowed to follow them can be hard for some athletes. Also, the coach not letting an athlete voice their opinion via social media could be a violation of the first amendment, as they are technically taking away the free speech of the particular athlete.

Based off these pros and cons, I believe that it is ethical for coaches to monitor their athlete’s social media accounts, as what they post does have impacts on the teams they are associated with. However, I don’t think it’s ethical for the coaches to dictate what the athletes post, as this can be a breach of free speech, but the coaches can still provide their opinion and suggest what things they may find inappropriate.

Discussion question: Should coaches be able to make an athlete take down a post on social media?