Last week our national and sports news programs were reporting and responding to the racist remarks the owner of the LA Clippers, Donald Sterling, made to his girlfriend. The remarks were truly offensive and reflected a reality that we are not proud of in America—racism still exists. The tape was released by TMZ on April 25. At a press conference on April 26, Adam Silver, the new Commissioner of the NBA, said that an investigation was underway and that he would have a response quickly. All the media outlets picked up the story and it was getting a lot of attention on social media as well. People used hashtags such as #DonaldSterling and #NBA in their posts.
Adam Silver had a second press conference on Tuesday, April 27, where he announced that he was banning Donald Sterling from the NBA “for life,” fining him $2.5 million (the max he could), and urging the NBA owners to vote to force Sterling to sell the Clippers.
While the Commissioner was answering questions at the second press conference, team owners, sports figures, fans, and others were tweeting their support for his leadership. Hashtags #bannedforlife and #gotitright were showing up in tweets supporting the Commissioner’s decisions. At least one cable network was streaming tweets from well-known personalities on the screen as the Q & A went on.
Social media “accompanied” this story and allowed many people to instantly share their opinion about it. The words of Donald Sterling elicited the NBA’s response. Social media was a way for many people to be part of the conversation about them.
Currently there is a hashtag campaign to #BringBackOurGirls trying to raise awareness worldwide about the 200+ girls kidnapped in Nigeria on April 14. The goal is to get more people to talk about this and put more pressure on the Nigerian government to find these girls. Without this type of effort, the plight of these girls and many others will be ignored. Here is a live tweet about it. If you are on Twitter, you can retweet it from here and do your part.
— Sr. Susan Wolf, SND (@srsusan) May 3, 2014
There are many social issues that need more conversation to be amplified and brought to the attention of legislative, business and community leaders. It would be well for the organizers and workers for these causes to use social media to raise consciousness and to find others who share their values. I did a search on Twitter for #immigrationreform, #humantrafficking, #waterforlife, and #prolife—they’re all there.
My point is that social media—in this case Twitter—can be another tool to engage people on important issues. We need to write letters and make phone calls, but we can also tweet using a hashtag. People in leadership might not be reading the tweets, but they often have someone monitoring social media to let them know “what the people (voters, members, customers) are saying.”
Pope Francis has used #prayforpeace in a number of his tweets @Pontifex. Has your organization/ministry ever used a hashtag to bring attention to a cause or event?
Note: Anyone can create a hashtag simply by placing the hash mark (#) in front of a string of characters. A hashtag is recognized by Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram and it becomes a searchable link to any other post or images that also have the same hashtag on that platform. You can use hashtags that are already in use or create your own. The trick is to use a hashtag that others will use and/or get the people in your network or group to use it whenever they post on the specified topic. For more info on hashtags check my previous blog on the topic.