It’s a dance as old as time, or perhaps just as old as autograph hunting. Wide-eyed fan approaches sports star/film star/pop star and is met with a barrage of hurtful and utterly unexpected abuse. Everyone has story or knows someone with a story of being unceremoniously snubbed by a hero.
Me? I was once told to “fuck off” by a star of Emmerdale in a nightclub in Leeds. She wasn’t a hero of mine and I certainly wasn’t after an autograph but to a degree I wear my “abused by a celebrity” badge with pride.
It is perfectly normal to be shocked in those situations. The personality of well-known individuals can often be just a media construct but as is the way these days, we often feel as if we know each of them personally. Twitter has broken down barriers even further and has been a remarkable tool in public relations.
Many “stars” from various fields of achievement now use social media to interact with their fans. It allows the famous to build a never before seen rapport with those that love them. In marketing terms it can be a dream too. Fans feel far more connected to their idols and are far more likely to buy into the idea of brands surrounding the object of their affections.
However, as recent events have shown, this can be a two-way street. Twitter has created a world where the disgruntled or the merely plain stupid can directly address someone in the public eye and be pretty sure their remarks will be read.
Olympic diving star Tom Daley was the subject of trolling on Twitter after failing to secure a medal at London 2012. The boy responsible for the abuse of Daley was arrested and received a formal warning for harassment.
Every day seems to bring a new “Twitter storm” and yesterday’s happened to involve the football club which I support, Tottenham Hotspur. We are currently in the midst of the usual pre-season transfer quagmire. Every team is trying to improve their squad are Spurs are no different.
One of the ongoing soap operas of the summer is the “will he, won’t he?” tale of Emmanuel Adebayor’s move from Manchester City back to Spurs, a club he played at on loan during last season. The major sticking point appears to be Adebayor’s wage demands.
Last season, the player’s parent club subsidised an enormous pay cheque. Adebayor was reportedly on £170,000 per week, £100,00 of which was being paid by Manchester City. It is no secret that Tottenham employ a rigid wage structure and fitting the Togolese striker into that as a contracted Spurs players has been tricky.
Understandably there are many Spurs fans that would love to see Emmanuel Adebayor sign permanently for the club. At times last season he was excellent and the club is currently down to Jermain Defoe and teenager Harry Kane as their only recognised strikers.
However, there are also fans that think Adebayor’s wage demands are too high and that the player who scored 18 goals in all competitions last seasons should take a huge pay cut to join the club. One fan, Dan Cohen felt so strongly about this matter than he decided to contact Adebayor directly via Twitter.
“@Sheyiadebayor why don’t you u come to work with me for a few ‘years’ to really see what it’s like to earn your weekly wage #greed #COYS”
Rather than just ignore this seemingly inoffensive request, Adebayor fired back with a less than refined response.
“@DCSuperSales because u shit and stupid that’s why you earn that!”
Taken at face value this would seem like another footballer acting like a complete moron but I’m not entirely convinced that’s fair on Adebayor.
Had Mr. Cohen merely suggested that Adebayor join him to see how fans get by on much less money there would have been no response. As soon as he accused Adebayor of being greedy there was an element of “baiting” about the tweet. Lo and behold, Mr. Cohen gets a rise.
Suddenly there is a sweeping “we don’t want Adebayor at our club” sentiment from Spurs supporters. “Look how he talks to Spurs fans!” some wailed. Adebayor’s sentiments might have been crude but he was merely responding to an unsolicited remark about the way he chooses to act within his professional life. It’s not really anyone’s business what he gets paid.
Football fans are always at a disadvantage in situations like this. Primarily because of a love for the club involved. Most fans care little what a player earns turning out for another team. Conversely, when it comes to their beloved outfit there seems to be an assumption that anyone would and should crawl across broken glass to don this particular shirt.
No football club is unique or special on a wider scale. Of course it appears that way to its supporters but the rest of the world couldn’t give a rat’s . I love my daughter very much and think that she might be the most amazing addition to the human race, ever. Nonetheless, it is just me and her mother that think this, nobody else is obliged to care. The same applies to supporting a football club.
Why shouldn’t Emmanuel Adebayor hold out for as much money as possible? He’ll be long time retired and once he is, in the minds of those who praise and abuse him now Adebayor will be a distant memory. I’m not particularly fussed either way if he rejoins the club. I trust in Daniel Levy to do what is best for Tottenham Hotspur, I’m certainly not going to get my undies in a bunch about wages and loyalty
However, Adebayor’s wages are not the issue here. The issue is social media and how fans choose to use it. This episode can be summed up in one sentence. Fan baits Adebayor, Adebayor responds, fan runs off whining about mean old footballer.
If you address someone directly, whether it be face to face or on the Internet you clearly intend for them to be aware of your opinion. If you make derogatory remarks about a person in the same circumstances it is churlish to then complain if they react in a way in which you find distasteful.
Twitter has been fantastic at opening up avenues of discourse in ways we could never have imagined and we have a responsibility to use those avenues carefully. By all means criticise someone but don’t be surprised if one day they bite back.