New Sportradar Program To Help Safeguard Pro Athletes From Social Media Abuse

Posted By Derek Helling on August 17, 2020
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As long as people have wagered upon sporting events, athletes have faced scrutiny from bettors upset about losing money. Social media has made it easier than ever for disgruntled bettors and others to convey their dismay, and that’s why a new Sportradar social media service exists.

The program aims to cut down on the instance of online abuse for athletes. Whether or not it can be effective at doing that depends on many factors, however.

How the Sportradar social media service aims to protect athletes

Sportradar has made a name for itself providing integrity services to sportsbook operators and data services for professional sports leagues. Now it aims to broaden its reach with this new product.

With the same investigative expertise Sportradar has honed for match-fixing, it will now tackle online abuse for athletes. According to a press release, “the service is designed to protect the mental health and wellbeing of professional athletes by keeping them free from harm online and providing peace of mind by discouraging future trolling and abuse through successful investigation, proactive intervention, and disruption.”

The service is already in action. Athletes taking part in the Exo-Tennis Series along with the ATP and WTA tours shared abusive messages they received on social media with Sportradar.

From there, Sportradar augmented the information with its investigation of the accounts behind the messages. That included location and any other identifying information that Sportradar could muster.

Then, Sportradar shared that information with the sport’s governing bodies, social media platforms, and law enforcement. At that point, those agencies made their own determinations on how to proceed.

While it may be questionable how effective this method of policing social media is, the need is legitimate. Athletes can suffer several adverse effects from this kind of abuse.

Why online abuse is no laughing matter

We’ve all seen the horror stories of bettors and fans talking tough to athletes behind their phones, often using social media accounts that bear no identifying information like names or pictures. For example, Baylor men’s basketball team member MaCio Teague missed a pair of free throws in a game last year and faced a torrent of abusive messages on social media platforms after the game.

Teague isn’t alone at all. As a matter of fact, you could easily make the case that the number of professional athletes who haven’t experienced similar situations is smaller than the number who have these days.

Just like for any other human, prolonged exposure to this kind of abuse can have a detrimental effect on athletes. The abusive words, coupled with a feeling of having no control over the situation, can affect athletes’ mental health.

That, in turn, will affect their physical performances in their sport. It then becomes a vicious cycle for these athletes, bringing on even more abusive messages.

Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle recently deleted his Twitter account for this very reason. For some athletes, that may be the most prudent course.

There is value to being on social media for athletes, however. It’s a great platform for them to use their high-profile status to diversify their professional interests and formulate a livelihood away from their sport.

Sportradar’s program aims to allow athletes to access the benefits of social media while cutting down on the cost of doing so. The program is dependent on several outside factors to reach its full potential, however.

The program is only as good as its engagement

Likely the biggest reason why so many online trolls feel free to spew their abuse on social media is that they believe they can do so without consequence. Sportradar’s program aims to change that by providing consequences for bad behavior.

Sportradar’s investigative powers are limited, though. It is not a law enforcement agency. It has no inherent power to subpoena Internet Service Provider logs or IP addresses for social media accounts, for example.

Sportradar collecting the information it has access to and then turning it over to social media companies and/or law enforcement doesn’t guarantee either body will actually take any action against the account holders. If those bodies decline to do anything, then athletes/leagues/teams have gotten very little (if any) return on their money.

Additionally, those athletes bear a lot of responsibility in this situation as well. They have to be proactive about sharing the abuse they’ve received on social media, which might exacerbate mental health issues.

If everyone involved takes this situation seriously, this program could make social media a safer place for athletes. Everything has to line up just right for the program to be effective at the maximum level, however.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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