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Friday, July 27, 2012
Twitter gaffes begat punishment for athletes

By Maria Burns Ortiz
Special to ESPN.com

Twitter cartoon
Twitter missteps have led to fines and suspensions many athletes who type before they think.
Triple jumper Voula Papachristou made headlines -- and took social media by storm -- this week when she was expelled from the Greek Olympic team after posting a racist tweet.

Papachristou is the first Olympian to be banned for social media comments, but she's certainly not the first athlete to get in trouble for remarks made on Twitter. Here are some of the most notable examples:

English footballer Carlton Cole also can attest that immigration jokes are no laughing matter. The West Ham striker avoided a suspension but was fined 20,000 (about $27,000) for comments he tweeted before a match between England and Ghana in March.

Also not the least bit funny: jokes about sexual assault. Mixed martial arts fighter Miguel Torres was dropped from the UFC after tweeting a joke about rape in December. (However, the UFC re-signed him a few weeks later.)

Homophobic slurs are another surefire way for athletes to land themselves in hot water on Twitter. NFL running back Larry Johnson was suspended and eventually released by the Kansas City Chiefs after using an anti-gay slur on Twitter, putting down his coach and mocking a fan on Twitter in October 2009. At the time of his release, he was less than 100 yards shy of passing Priest Holmes to become Kansas City's career rushing leader.

Voula Papachristou
Voula Papachristou might be smiling after landing this recent jump, but she won't be smiling in London because of a racially insensitive post on Twitter.
New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire was fined $50,000 last month for using an anti-gay slur in a direct message sent to a fan, who later publicly posted a screen shot of the message.

Stoudemire wasn't the first Knicks player to be fined this year for Twitter activity. Veteran guard J.R. Smith was fined $25,000 for posting semi-nude photos of a woman in March.

A photo -- albeit of a fully dressed male -- got Liverpool’s Ryan Babel in trouble. The Football Association, English football’s governing body, fined Babel $16,000 for posting a digitally altered image of an official wearing a Manchester United jersey in January 2011.

Just days after returning to Twitter following a yearlong hiatus from the site, NBA guard Gilbert Arenas, then with the Orlando Magic, was fined an undisclosed amount in June 2011 by the NBA for an “inappropriate tweet.”

University of Oklahoma wide receiver Jaz Reynolds was suspended for tweeting disparaging remarks about the University of Texas, following a campus shooting in Austin in September 2010. After facing other disciplinary issues, Reynolds later lost his scholarship.

Tweets cost New Jersey prep football star Yuri Wright a scholarship to his dream school before he even had the chance to accept. After posting a series of sexually graphic and racially derogatory tweets, Wright was expelled from high school in January, and the University of Michigan rescinded its scholarship offer. The four-star recruit ended up signing with Colorado.

Cleveland Indians closer and avid Twitter user Chris Perez was fined $750 in April by Major League Baseball for sending a “reckless message”: a tweet that included the message, “P.S. You hit us, we hit you.”

Even a tweet about food can create a hassle for an athlete. NFL cornerback Antonio Cromartie, then with San Diego, was fined $2,500 by the Chargers in August 2009 for tweeting that the team served “nasty food” at training camp.

As this list shows, 140 characters can cost athletes a lot -- even a shot at the Olympics.

Also see: Tim Keown -- Voula Papachristou leaps into infamy

Maria Burns Ortiz -- How will the Olympics will play on social media?