Do The Wright Thing
By Alex O’Sullivan-Pierce
It was vulgar, imprudent, and immature. It was foolish, and it definitely wasn’t grammatically correct. It was an All-American cornerback’s Twitter feed. This account was closed, along with the door to at least one premier college football program, on one of the most promising high school prospects in the nation, Yuri Wright. Only months after helping Don Bosco Prepatory Academy bring home a National Football Championship, Wright was expelled from the private, Catholic high school in New Jersey because of a series of sexually explicit and racially charged Tweets which began in July. The University of Michigan, once seen as the frontrunner to land the talented defensive back, revoked his scholarship offer after learning of the expulsion.
Wright was one of four highly touted college prospects from Don Bosco that helped attract national media attention to Ramsey, New Jersey this season to cover the team’s championship run. Once again, Wright and Don Bosco have made headlines, although this time is it because several of the player’s tweets from his private Twitter account which were leaked to the public. (If you are curious of the exact content of the messages, avail a quick Google search.) The school disapproved of their student athlete’s crude sexual allusions, demeaning profanity toward women and repeated racial insensitivities. While Wright’s former coach at Bosco, Greg Toal, wished Yuri well in the future, the coach supported the administration’s decision to expel his star player saying that there was no question that the school did what it had to do. Reports indicate that all players on Don Bosco’s National Champion football team had been warned repeatedly about inappropriate uses of social media.
It is well known that the First Amendment’s protection of free speech is not without limits. Further, as a private institution, Dom Bosco is allowed by law to suspend or permanently expel students for conduct deemed inconsistent with the school’s values. Still, Wright’s sudden conversion from high-school star to persona non grata raises questions about what level of institutional due process should be afforded to private school students, especially those who happen to also be high profile athletes.
Perhaps just as distressing as the content of Wright’s online messages was the school’s handling of the situation. Wright’s graphic tweeting exhibition had been on display to his nearly two thousand followers for months, all throughout Don Bosco’s championship season. Despite his ongoing, online transgressions, Wright never missed a game. How could this behavior be overlooked one day, and warrant expulsion the next? Certainly, Wright’s actions called for some measure of punishment, but was expulsion not a drastic selection from among the school’s available disciplinary measures? What about a parent conference, detention, or suspension? How about being benched for a game, or until the inappropriate twitter feed was taken down?
Burned by his expulsion, Wright lost an offer from from Michigan, and possibly others. However, despite his diminished status as a top-echelon recruit, his opportunity to lock down a spot on a Division I college football roster was never in serious doubt.
On February 1, National Signing Day, Yuri Wright signed a letter committing to play football next year for the Colorado University Buffs.
And guess what? He’s back on Twitter. In his return address to the social media world Wright tweeted, “Turin’ over a new page in this chapter of life.” His new tweets are noticeably more positive and appropriate for all audiences. Wright paid tribute to his ever growing number of followers posting, “thanks for all the support this mean everything to me.” We still need to work on the grammar.