2017 NFL Divisional Round Wrap: ‘Keep it cool on social media’

WASHINGTON – Somewhere, Vince Lombardi is spinning in his grave.

The patron saint of NFL head coaches surely wouldn’t be able to imagine the threat of his profanity-laced postgame speech in the aftermath of a hard fought playoff win being viewed by millions of people. He certainly wouldn’t believe one of his own players could be responsible for making those words public domain.

Yet here we are. In 2017, the social media craze has become so saturated in professional sports that coach Mike Tomlin’s locker room comments to his Pittsburgh Steelers after their 18-16 win in Kansas City were live streamed, courtesy of Antonio Brown’s mind-numbingly foolish decision to post them on Facebook Live as Brown cheesed for the camera.

“We spotted those a–holes a day and a half,” Tomlin can be heard saying of their next opponent, the New England Patriots. “They played yesterday, our game got moved to tonight. We’re going to touch down at 4 o’clock in the f–king morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for their ass.”

Is this comment particularly bad? Not in context, no. Will it be bulletin board material for Bill Belichick and an already fired up Patriots team? Absolutely.

This is why social media and sports have such a strange relationship. On the one hand, it brings fans closer to the game and makes players more accessible than ever before. On the other hand, such access creates more distractions and contrived storylines than anything old school coaches like Lombardi or Joe Gibbs could even imagine.

I’m not quite a curmudgeonly, “get off my lawn” type when it comes to social media (but I am shameless enough to shill for you to follow me @RobWoodfork on Twitter). However, this is a huge betrayal by Brown.

Tomlin’s comments were given during a closed-door session with the team after a big win. There’s a reason media availability in the locker room is limited — any good work environment has to include a level of privacy so that ideas and emotions can be expressed fully. Tomlin — and anyone else in that locker room — deserves the right to fully celebrate the accomplishment of winning another playoff game and getting their minds right for the next step in the path to the Super Bowl. That usually includes a few words and actions that aren’t for public consumption. Hell, I’d feel violated if every word spoken behind the scenes here in the Glass Enclosed Nerve Center were heard worldwide during breaking news.

While I view Brown as the best receiver in football, he’s also earned his reputation for being selfish. Regardless of how you feel about end zone celebrations, he has almost routinely cost the team penalty yards and himself money. For being a former sixth-round pick with an alleged chip on his shoulder, he sure does act like a former #1 pick with a penchant for crying “look at me!” This latest act of selfishness is easily his worst.

Aside from the violation of privacy, this also shows a massive lack of awareness on Brown’s part. Why is he segregating himself from the team while his coach is addressing them? What if a naked teammate had walked by at an inopportune time? Why was Brown’s immediate thought to post something on Facebook? For a guy who is adept at making split-second decisions on the field, his lack of off-field awareness is stunning.

Tomlin and a few select Steelers veterans need to get Brown’s mental compass recalibrated. They already got in his ear about the end zone celebrations, but now it’s time to get him in check with the social media abuse. This crap wouldn’t happen in a Bill Belichick locker room (as Tom Brady confirms), and Bill Parcells would probably catch an assault charge if one of his players did something like this.

Tomlin is more of a players’ coach than those two, but still has some badass tendencies. Hopefully, he proves it by making his player understand that saving some of that material for the cameras at Super Bowl Media Day is a far better look than using it up two weeks prematurely at Arrowhead Stadium, where the home locker room hasn’t celebrated a postseason win since 1994.

More importantly, I hope this serves as a cautionary tale for any other self-centered pro athletes who just can’t wait for their next Facebook Live session. There’s definitely a place for social media in pro sports — just not in the locker room.

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Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is WTOP's Senior Sports Content Producer, which includes duties as producer and host of the DC Sports Huddle, nightside sports anchor and sports columnist on WTOP.com.

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