Pete Carroll | “Social Media Is Very Volatile”

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll isn’t about to ban his players from using social media (like several college and professional coaches have). Heck, the guy even has a Twitter account of his own. All he asks is that his players don’t cause any distractions with their actions. But when you have a confident group of youngsters, that’s not always easy to avoid.

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is Seattle’s ”most wanted” suspect right now. I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s causing distractions, but he’s been making plenty of national headlines with his social media use lately:

Richard Sherman | U Mad Bro?

The controversial picture Richard Sherman posted on Twitter

The first incident came after Seattle’s upset win against New England on October 14th. Sherman posted a picture of himself in the face of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with a quote he added saying, “U mad bro?” In his tweet Sherman wrote, ““He told me and [safety Earl Thomas] to see him after the game when they win. . . I found him after.” It was the tweet heard round the NFL (everyone and their mother were talking about it), and Sherman has since deleted the tweet from his account. However, you can still find a different picture on Sherman’s account of a dejected Tom Brady walking off the field with a tweet saying, “Brady sure looks like a man who turned the 12thMan against us.”

That was just the start for Sherman. Two weeks later, he was back at it again. For the Seahawks showdown against Detroit, Sherman changed the name on his Twitter account to Optimus Prime, the Transformers nemesis of Megatron, which is the nickname given to Lions star wide receiver Calvin Johnson. It was so highly publicized the voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen actually called Sherman before the game to share his support. The Detroit players didn’t think Sherman’s antics were quite as funny.

“He took a shot at Brady, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play,” Lions center Dominic Raiola said, “Take a shot at coaches. Whatever. That’s disrespectful to this game, but maybe he doesn’t have a lot of respect, who knows?”

Sherman is actually a smart guy. He took a path unlike anyone else before him. He is the only kid from his high school in Compton, California, to ever go to Stanford University (which isn’t easy to get into even as an athlete). He played five years for the Cardinal as a wide receiver and a cornerback. He majored in communication, and it now looks like he’s the ultimate self-promoter. His tweets — and his solid play this season — have put him on the NFL map.

“Social media is very volatile,” said Carrol, “It’s something to be dealt with in respect, because you can make mistakes. You have to know what you’re doing. We have a way that we operate and our guys are learning how to do it.”

Sherman isn’t the only one to make waves in the Twitterverse lately. University of Idaho tight end Taylor Elmo might not see the field for the rest of the year because of a tweet. After head coach Robb Akey was fired two weeks ago, Elmo reportedly sent out a message saying, “U of idaho is stupid as hell for what they did. Fire a man to keep your own job???” The tweet was targeted at Idaho athletic director Rob Spear, who obviously didn’t take to kindly to Elmo’s remarks.

Elmo’s tweet is generally viewed as immature, and you should chalk it up as a college kid making a mistake. But believe it or not, Richard Sherman isn’t that far removed from Elmo, who is a redshirt junior, in terms of age. Sherman is only 24-years-old (Elmo is 22), playing in his second season in the National Football League. Sherman is actually one of 21 players currently on the Seahawks 53-man active roster who are either a rookie or second year veteran.

Pete Carroll Seahawks Head Coach

Pete Carroll

“When you have a bunch of young guys trying to figure it out – figure out what it takes — they’re trying to feel their way a little bit,” Carroll said. “I want us to speak as much as we can as one, and represent all of us when we send our messaging out. Sometimes the way it comes out — we’re learning.”

While social media has opened a door into athletes’ lives that we’ve never seen before (we get to see their Halloween costumes, hear their opinions, etc.), it’s also caused plenty of problems. Athletes were under scrutiny before, but now they’re in the public eye even more with social media. Someone (usually those jerks in the media) is always looking for them to make a mistake.

“It takes savvy,” said Carroll. ”savvy is usually gained through experience.”

In a sports world of “coach speak” and clichés, I’m all for athletes using social media. It allows us to see who these guys really are when they’re not on the field or speaking into a microphone. The only problem is, many athletes don’t realize that Twitter is the podium of social media. Tweets are used as quotes by the media all the time now. Nothing on social media is ever off the record.

Yes, social media can cause problems, but it also helps fix problems. Richard Sherman made headlines for his smack talk, but he didn’t make headlines for his retweet that helped raise money (and encouraged others to do so as well) for the American Cancer Society. Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald just wrapped up a social media campaign to raise funds for breast cancer research. Love even let Fitzgerald shave his head for the effort — a video you can watch on YouTube. There are numerous examples of athletes stepping up for a good cause all over social media.

Just like Pete Carroll, I’m a proponent of athletes using social media. It’s a relatively new concept to everyone and it’s bound to evolve over time. The cool thing is — from Joe Shmoe in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, to Tim Lewis in Seattle, Washington, to the President of the United States, we’re all learning how to use social media together.

What do you think about athletes using social media? I would love to hear your opinion on either side of the issue. You can leave a message below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out for more on the world of sports, travel, music and more.