At the beginning of fall camp every season, like clockwork, the Clemson football players sign off of social media. It is a tradition that was first put in place several years back, and one that has now become part of the culture.
Contrary to popular belief however, it wasn't a rule put in place by head coach Dabo Swinney. While it is unclear exactly when the ban first started, it was actually something one of Swinney's groups of seniors came up with all on their own.
"Yeah, that came from the seniors," Swinney said. "I want to say it was either 2012 or 2013. They just came to me and said, 'Hey Coach, this is something we'd like to do, what do you think about it?' I said, 'You're asking me what I think about it? Shoot, that's great with me.' I said, y'all want to do it, then y'all do it, and so they did."
It is a policy that Swinney goes over each year with his seniors, and each year he leaves it up to those seniors to decide whether the policy stays in place. So far, that's exactly what's happened.
"All I do every year is literally, report date, when I meet with my seniors," Swinney said. "I'm like, all right, here's the policy, you guys want to keep it, what do you want to do? This year — they all look at me like I'm crazy, like what are you talking about. This is what we do. So I'm like, all right, here we go."
It is a tradition that the program now embraces with open arms, but it is a tradition that also brings a lot of criticism with it each and every year. Swinney has just accepted the fact that every August, when camp opens, he is going to take some heat in the media, warranted or not.
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"And now it's just become a part of our culture," Swinney said. "Every year, I love it. Every August these people who do no homework, they just write these articles and they bash Coach Swinney. I'm taking everybody's First Amendment right, I'm just this and that, and it's just laughable every year. But I get beat up — every August it's like on a loop. Here it comes. When is the social media article? Oh, there it is. It's just crazy."
There's no denying that social media has become a way of life for most. For today's youth, it's something that is difficult to give up, even if only temporarily. However, Swinney thinks it's worth it, if for nothing else, than to take a little pressure off of his players.
"I just think the biggest thing in this world," Swinney said, "it just eliminates one thing they feel the need to have to do. It's not like they're not on it and keeping up with the world, but just young people today feel like they've got to respond to every nut job out there. I mean, that's just kind of the world. Somebody says something bad, you feel like you have to respond, and it's just the craziest thing. And so I just think it eliminates the emotion and just takes a little pressure off of them."
While there are a lot of positives that go along with social media, it can also be a place where players can get themselves into trouble. Even if trouble was the last thing they were looking for.
Swinney is dedicated to making sure his players are well-informed on the subject. The good, and especially the bad.
"I think it's important to educate," Swinney said. "Social media is great. There's lots of positives that come from it. But what you click, and what you say, and what you type, I mean, in the world now, you're going to be held accountable for that 20 years later. People change, and people grow up and people mature, and good people do stupid things. And so I mean, there's a lot of us sitting here, I'm pretty sure y'all are happy you're not being held accountable for social media 20 years ago for something stupid that you did. I know I am."