Saturday, June 9, 2012

Stupid is not Illegal

Australian Swimmers Nick D'Arcy and Kenrick Monk went to a shooting range, fired a few crackers (under supervision), had their photo taken with guns, posted it on Facebook, got in trouble, removed the photo and flew home into a media shitstorm and a cloud over their Olympic selection.

Is there any chance that someone has over-reacted?

Maybe. Swimming Australia has a social media policy. They encourage athletes to be involved in social media, subject to their policies. That sounds fair enough, but begs the question: on what grounds has Swimming Australia reacted regarding the now-infamous photo of two swimmers with a handful of guns. What exactly happened?

The Swimming Australia Statement fails to explain anything other than that the photo or photos were judged by someone to be inappropriate.

Swimming Australia became aware of inappropriate photos posted on athletes' Facebook pages and Twitter accounts this morning, and instantly contacted the athletes involved to ask for them to be removed under Swimming Australia’s Social Media Guidelines.

The athletes have subsequently removed the photos.

Swimming Australia in no way condones these photos, and does not condone the posting of inappropriate content on Facebook, Twitter or any social media platform.

This is a timely reminder for athletes to more be responsible to themselves, the public with whom they engage through social media, and the reputation of the sport.

The athletes involved are currently returning from a training camp and competition in the US, and will be spoken to further upon their return.

Swimming Australia's Social Media Policy is every bit as vague as their legal team would want it to be. It's impossible to detail every way in which the spirit of the policy could be breached, so the policy is not specific. It also leaves it open to interpretation. The following is the policy guideline regarding posting photos to the internet: 

Swimming Australia also treats all photographs, video and audio ‘material’ posted onto social media as public comment and accessible to the public. Any material that may be considered negative, derogatory or inappropriate towards Persons bound by these Guidelines should not be posted. 

So, the photo of Nick D'Arcy and Kenrick Monk fondling an armload of firearms is considered "inappropriate" by someone is a position of authority within Swimming Australia...would it be different if instead of swimmers, the athletes in the photo had been shooters? 

What the swimmers did - posing for photographs while holding firearms - is perfectly legal in the USA. It's not illegal to buy these real-life Rambo-props in California. Equally, it's not illegal to be photographed handling those weapons. It's not even illegal to post the photo on Facebook or Twitter. So they haven't broken any laws.

It must be the association of swimming or swimmers with guns and violence.  It's not a great look, but is it worth this level of hand-wringing? They were being yobbo-tourists. Had they been in Germany, they might've taken a few laps of the Nurburgring, and had photos taken with crash helmets. 

Our Aussie Chef de Mission Nick Green commented "you can't be serious", but whether that is directed at the photo or the outrage is unknown. He did, however, explain that the by posting the photos, the swimmers may have brought themselves and the team into disrepute.

That would be redundant. These two swimmers have already blotted their copybooks. I doubt that this would be an issue if Nick D'Arcy and Kenrick Monk weren't better known for bad behaviour out of the pool than great performances in the water. D'Arcy king-hit another swimmer, putting him in hospital, and Monk stacked his skateboard, then made a police report that he'd been in a hit-n-run. 

It's a fact that of the hundreds of athletes representing Australia in London this year, D'Arcy and Monk will be watched more closely and punished more severely if they do something dumb. We're seeing evidence of that already. They should bear it in mind before doing anything that could be considered even marginally risky. 

I wish that was the end of it; it's not.

Kenrick and D'Arcy may have to front the AOC to explain why they should keep their places in the Olympic team. I'm not a fan of either of these swimmers, purely due to their previous acts of stupidity, but enough is enough. In this case, there was no malice, no violence, no-one was hurt and no intent to deceive: just a couple of immature guys and a trigger-happy authority calling the shots.

Note: The photo in question was removed from Facebook when instructed by Swimming Australia officials, but the Internet is forever. A quick Google search will yield multiple copies of the image. 

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I think I'm the only one who isn't surprised when full-time athletes turn out not to be paragons of virtue.

    We all have to move away from expecting these cloistered individuals to be great ambassadors. That's why we have ambassadors.