Twitter’s unwritten rules, and the sports stars who broke them

McLaren driver Jenson Button. Picture: Getty
McLaren driver Jenson Button. Picture: Getty
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Lewis Hamilton and Ashley Cole are the latest high-profile sports stars to fall foul of Twitter etiquette, but they are by no means the first to commit egregious social networking faux pas.

Footballers, racing drivers and Olympic athletes have demonstrated with alarming and regrettable regularity that too many tweets do, in fact, make a you-know-what.

Don’t criticise your boss / authority

Ashley Cole

The FA’s ruling on allegations concerning racist remarks made by Chelsea defender John Terry, an affair already steeped in shame, was punctuated in ignominious fashion by Chelsea and England teammate Ashley Cole, who, upon hearing the FA’s guilty verdict, took to Twitter to call English football’s governing body a “bunch of t***s”. The FA and Chelsea are expected to respond in kind by fining the former Arsenal left-back.

Darren Bent

Darren Bent took to Twitter to make plain his desire to move to Sunderland in 2009 while he was still a Tottenham player. Bent, who now plays for Aston Villa, was unequivocal about where he didn’t want to move. “Seriously getting p***** off now. Why can’t anything be simple. It’s so frustrating hanging round doing jack s***,” the striker had said. In another tweet, Bent said: “Do I wanna go Hull City NO. Do I wanna go stoke NO do I wanna go sunderland YES so stop f****** around, Levy. Sunderland are not the problem in the slightest.”

Check your facts before making accusations

Lewis Hamilton

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was forced to retract allegations of disrespect aimed at Jenson Button after he accused his teammate of unfollowing him on Twitter. It transpired that Button had never followed Hamilton in the first place, prompting Hamilton into a red-faced climb-down, to which Button has yet to respond. A wise move, all things considered.

Rise above the abuse

Wayne Rooney

... is advice that Wayne Rooney failed spectacularly to heed as the Manchester United striker joined Twitter last year, only to retaliate to threats made by a Liverpool fan after being called a “fat whore”, among other things. Rooney rose to the jibe and replied with a threatening tweet - made all the more embarrassing for the England striker by the fact that he had addressed the message to his own Twitter handle.

No place for bigotry

Voula Papachristou

A rather more odious example of breaking Twitter etiquette came on the eve of the London 2012 Olympics, when Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was expelled from the team after retweeting an anti-immigration message from far-right Greek party Golden Dawn. Papachristou also tweeted a remark about African athletes that was deemed racist by the Greek Olympic Committee, who said she showed “no respect for a basic Olympic value”.

Stephanie Rice

Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice lost a lucrative sponsorship deal and rather a lot of goodwill after tweeting a homophobic remark following a rugby match between Australia and South Africa in 2010. Rice, a triple Olympic champion, tweeted: “Suck on that f******!”

Rio Ferdinand

While not in the same league as the deplorable missives above, Rio Ferdinand’s “choc ice” remark - a term meaning black on the outside, white on the inside - aimed at Ashley Cole in relation to the John Terry racism case, was met with widespread disapproval, and led to a £45,000 fine for the Manchester United defender.