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Janet Judge speaks to student-athletes about social media

Prominent lawyer, former athlete encourages 400+ to "control future"

October 17, 2012

Janet Judge speaks to student-athletes about social media

Contact: John Hartrick

VESTAL, N.Y. – Think about your future. Don’t give away control.

That was the essence of the message that prominent public speaker Janet Judge imparted on a gathering of more than 400 Binghamton University student-athletes Monday night at the Anderson Center Watters Theater on campus.

Judge, a former three-sport Division I athlete, lawyer and president of Sports Law Associates LLC, shared her experiences and vast professional knowledge on the subject of social media. The hour-long presentation, part of the athletic department’s annual speakers program coordinated by its Student-Athlete Success Center, was equal parts informative, humorous and inspiring.

“I thought she was great,” said Ashley Aupont, senior track and field athlete and president of the school’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). “The one thing she said that stood out the most was ‘would you hire you?’ Your tweets, your profile, your pictures … everything that you can control and put out there to represent yourself. It really hit home for me now that I’m a senior and applying for jobs. Another aspect of her presentation I liked was the part where no one remembers your name, but they remember your school and your team/sport. It’s something to really think about when you present yourself at games, meets, or even just hanging around.”

In addition to her law practice, Judge works with the NCAA and advises and represents colleges and universities across the country. Educating student-athletes about the implications of social media is a timely issue given the recent explosion of online activity and the growing number of NCAA and legal ramifications of misuse.

“Athletes are bright people … but many of them haven’t been in the ‘real’ world yet, so it isn’t second nature to them to be careful,” Judge said. “Sometimes they need to be reminded that people might be checking on them and that others might attach a greater importance to the things they do than the athlete would imagine. I want them to understand that what might be fun now could have implications later. I would hate for an athlete to lose a dream job five years from now because of something that was posted now.” 

Judge was perfectly suited to deliver the message. As a former collegiate athlete, she knows the unique environment of being a student-athlete. As a lawyer and advisor, Judge also has intimate knowledge of dozens of legal cases and NCAA rulings resulting from social media practices, and she shared specific examples of athletes, both collegiate and professional, who suffered the consequences of poor decisions regarding social media.

Ramifications for future employment
Early in her presentation, Judge posed the question, “What’s at stake?” She then listed eligibility, reputation and future employment as the primary answers.

“If you looked at Facebook and Twitter in five years … would you hire you?” she asked. “Your online profile is more important than any references you provide to a prospective employer.”

The video rattled off fact after startling fact, such as that 75 percent of recruiters are told by the companies they work for to search social media outlets and 70 percent have rejected candidates based on what they find.
Judge also gave examples of student-athletes and high school recruits whose social media behavior has resulted in NCAA scholarships being rescinded, eligibility taken away, and even legal prosecution and jail time.

“What happens in Vegas now stays on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram,” Judge said, explaining that Youtube is now the second-largest search engine in the world and that a Google image search is standard for companies looking to hire.

“As Division I student-athletes, we’re held to a higher standard,” senior wrestler Patrick Hunter said. “Mrs. Judge gave great insight into the positive and negative outcomes that social media can have. I hope it left an impression on others to be smarter and more aware of what they are sharing with the world.”

Facebook settings important
At one point, Judge asked the entire student-body to stand as she talked about the vast number of “friends” people have on Facebook. She counted up in hundreds and had individuals sit down as the threshold moved past their personal total. One student-athlete had as many as 3,000 “friends,” furthering Judge’s point about the vast nature and inherent danger of social media.

Some of her Facebook tips included utilizing all of the privacy settings available and being selective about who has access to view your information. “Get rid of people you don’t know and people who don’t have your back,” she advised. “Be proactive about your ‘brand’ and who you share it with.”

Judge’s stories and photos of athletes who have done foolish things with social media and smart phones (perils of sexting) drew laughter, while a brief interlude about hazing and the Florida A&M marching band tragedy sent the room into silence.

She also cautioned about content on Youtube, Skype and gmail accounts, which can be saved for nine months and would be a jackpot for would-be database hackers.

Ed Scott, associate athletics director for student services, had heard Judge speak before and was confident her message would be well received by Binghamton student-athletes. “From a student services perspective,” he said, “our job is to find ways to educate our student-athletes so they can make informed decisions in all facets of their lives. This includes the use of social media.”

Judge asked the student-athletes to think about three words they would hope teammates would use to describe them by the time they graduate. At the end, she showed a screen that listed such attributes as “leader” and “responsible.”

“You have skills and you are responsible,” she said. “That’s why employers want to hire you at a disproportionate rate to your peers. You control your image and your future. Don’t give away that control.”

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