Learn to play nice, people.
You hear it all the time. The referees tell it to the players, the teachers tell it to the pupils, the lifeguards shout it to the children who splash in the deep end.
Heck, your parents said it a million times – like that Halloween when your big brother tested the strength of your lightsaber on the back of your skull while you were playing. crazy.
For a few dozen adults, the proverbial line in the sand was drawn Friday morning when Facebook issued a warning to the creators of New Mexico Overtime Sports, saying a series of comments went too far with foul language and threatening remarks. . The social media giant has threatened to shut down the popular fan page if things don’t get under control.
This stemmed from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s decision on Thursday afternoon not to update a public health order prohibiting the holding of organized sports. The governor’s refusal to greenlight the return of youth sports canceled after-school events for the rest of the year.
The blowback from angry and frustrated parents was immediate.
“We expected things to explode and they did,” said Manny Lucero, founder of New Mexico Overtime Sports. “It’s not the first time that something big has happened that attracts people like this, but [Thursday’s] the news got out of hand.
A series of posts generated hundreds of comments ranging from support for the governor to nasty arguments between people on either side of the discussion. As is usually the case on social media forums, this quickly went downhill.
“You know, you want to have a discussion or even an argument, that’s fine,” said New Mexico supplemental sports administrator Richard Tripp. “We encourage healthy dialogue. We want people to do that. It goes too far, however, when he starts using foul language or saying things that can be seen as, you know, threatening to someone else. We don’t want insults, and every time someone says something bad about things like a kid, a coach, or even the governor, it gets out of hand.
Lujan Grisham was the target of several posts, but some were aimed at the New Mexico Activities Association and others that support the state’s call to shut things down amid the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. This dramatic increase in cases is at the heart of the extended health order that began at the high school state basketball tournament in March, when the NMAA hosted the final three days of the event from a week without fans.
This led to the cancellation of spring sports and nearly seven months of mask-wearing, social distancing and distance learning.
Lucero said he understands people’s frustration with state health orders and is okay with people airing those frustrations on the site’s page as long as it’s done the right way. . He started the NMOT Sports Center website in 2007 with the idea of promoting high school sports, its athletes, and various current topics in a positive light.
He wanted it to be an alternative site to TheOldCoach.com, a site whose hugely popular forums were often nothing more than bash sessions about coaches, players, refs and everything in between. It was, Lucero said, counterintuitive to the idea of promoting youth sports and all the good that comes with it.
In 2010, the NMOT site moved to Facebook where its popularity grew slowly and steadily. This week, he had more than 10,900 subscribers, many of whom embark on talking points ranging from scores to standout performances and timely NMAA topics like district realignment, playoff pairings and, yes, the coronavirus.
Lucero and Tripp monitor the site daily, stepping in whenever the need arises.
“People say it’s not real journalism, but I say it’s not supposed to be,” Lucero said. “There is no freedom of expression here. Your freedom of speech is not whether I agree with you or not. I don’t mean you have to agree with my points. I say it can’t be negative, it can’t be political.
Both men admit that a politically charged topic like a state-mandated health care order and the elimination of youth sports can sometimes blur the lines, but the truth is there is such a thing as taking a point too far – and many of the page’s subscribers only made it Thursday night.
As of Friday night, the site was still up and running, the vile posts that had long caught Facebook’s attention deleted by Tripp and Lucero. Still, more than 750 comments on a handful of posts stemming from Thursday’s announcement were still up.
Tripp took the time Friday morning to warn NMOT followers that Facebook was threatening to take down the page. Initial comments were understanding and supportive, but it quickly turned into a protracted debate with angry parents spouting random statistics and semi-informed opinions on why the shutdown should or shouldn’t continue.
“People can’t help but argue sometimes,” Tripp said. “You know, that’s the problem here; they are always the adults. They always say it’s for the kids, it’s in their best interest, it’s all about the kids, but it really isn’t. Sometimes people lose track of what they are arguing about.
Of the hundreds of posts, Tripp said only one was from a prep athlete. Aztec High School senior Hunter Riddick wrote a lengthy message imploring the governor to heed the call of teenage athletes and let the kids play. He wrote about how sports helped him overcome diabetes and, in his own words, a lack of size, speed and athletic ability to find indoor gear that allowed him to succeed.
“It was beautiful,” Tripp said. “Here you have all these adults, parents, grandparents and coaches – they fight and use bad words, say bad things about other people. Not all of them, but many of them. Then you have a teenager with a message that means something. This is what we need the most, you know? There are not enough children coming to our site, and I would like them to.