Free Speech versus Free Education: First Amendment Considerations in Limiting Student Athletes' Use of Social Media Academic Article uri icon


  • This article considers the First Amendment implications regarding limitations placed on student athletes' use of social media. Schools have a vested interest in controlling their athletes' public expressions, whether such expressions are found in tattoos, public interviews or tweets. Like it or not, a great deal of damage can occur in "140 words or less." And, displeased student-athletes have choices. Twitter or touchdowns. Facebook from your dorm or facetime on television hitting three-pointers. While universities are generally places that encourage robust speech and debate, there are defensible, and arguably lawful, reasons why schools should limit student-athletes' use of social media.Part I of this article will provide examples of student athletes' indiscriminate use of social media. In other words, Part I will set forth the problem. Part II of the article will present relevant case law evaluating First Amendment application in school and athletic settings. Part II explains the legal issues in dealing with the problem. Part III concludes briefly by explaining that current First Amendment law likely permits universities to condition participation in college athletics on their athletes' restricted use of social media. After all, universities provide objecting student athletes with an option: free speech or free education.

published proceedings

  • Mississippi Sports Law Review

author list (cited authors)

  • Penrose, M. M

complete list of authors

  • Penrose, Mary Margaret

publication date

  • December 2011