BARTON: Internet Intrudes on Athletes
More Than a Game

The social media world has blown up over the past week after separate news stories broke regarding the love lives of two NBA players. Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving’s name began trending online when the musician PartyNextDoor posted a photo on Instagram showing himself holding hands in bed with R&B singer Kehlani, who recently broke up with Irving. Not long after, a video filmed by the Los Angeles Lakers’ rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell showed fellow Laker Nick Young admitting to cheating on fiancee singer Iggy Azalea with multiple women. On the surface, these stories seem like intrusions on the two players’ love lives, but they intrude further into much darker topics like suicide and infidelity. This sheds light on the invasiveness of the public as well as the monumental role of social media in shaping public opinion.

Kehlani is identifiable as the woman in PartyNextDoor’s photo by the tattoos on her hand and the caption of the photo. Given how recently Kehlani had been linked to Irving prior to PartyNextDoor’s photo, many assumed the singer had cheated on Irving at some point in time. Social media users tweets mocked Irving and Kehlani, posting memes and sharing their opinions about a situation they did not fully understand.

Many accused Kehlani of cheating, even though both Kehlani and Irving stated they were not dating when PartyNextDoor posted the photo. Strangers continued to throw slurs and lies at Kehlani on various social media platforms, prompting the singer to post a photo of herself in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt with a caption referencing the lies being spread about her alleged affair.

A few days later, the Los Angeles Lakers’ backcourt made headlines after a video of Young confessing that he cheated on his fiancee was posted to Russell’s Snapchat. How the video leaked remains a mystery, as Russell denies posting it himself. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, teammates shunned the 20-year-old point guard after the faux pas.

Prior to the Lakers’ win versus the Miami Heat last Wednesday, Coach Byron Scott requested that reporters ask him a question about basketball rather than inquire about the online drama involving his players. However, Young and Russell fielded plenty of questions about the topic when they became available to the media. For Russell, his reputation in the public eye and in NBA circles has completely changed. Young, on the other hand, must deal with the fallout of the situation in his personal life.

Both these incidents demonstrate the toxic nature of social media — it has the ability to create highly publicized controversies that can break relationships and cause distress. What gives us, as random strangers, the right to intrude on these celebrities’ personal lives? In Irving and Kehlani’s situation, neither individual did anything wrong, so why should people mock them? Both Irving and Kehlani are human, and that vulnerability certainly showed after Kehlani went to the hospital.

While most people would consider Young’s actions wrong, again, why is it any of our business? His personal life should be kept behind closed doors, but this story threw it into the open and infringed on his right to privacy. Young’s, Irving’s and Kehlani’s celebrity statuses do not mean their personal lives are open for abuse and scrutiny.

The most deplorable part about these situations is the ease at which people type libelous words behind their computer screens into a forum the whole world can see. The athletes they lambaste have friends, family and children who care about them and are wounded by the slew of insults directed at the athletes. Unfortunately, the media thrives on discussing people’s personal lives, even when it negatively affects many individuals.

NickBartonNick Barton is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. More Than a Game appears every other Tuesday.

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