Players and coaches are not nameless gray faces | Sports News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Players and coaches are not nameless gray faces

Social media has empowered a legion of bullies to fire shots across the internet with zero repercussions

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin

Last year, a local fire chief used a racial slur when referring to Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin. This year, after an early season loss to the Baltimore Ravens, people were all over social media calling for his job. 

Tomlin often refers to opposing players and coaches as “nameless gray faces.” Ironically, behind a wall of anonymity, that’s exactly what his detractors have become. Social media has empowered a legion of bullies to fire shots across the internet with zero repercussions. 

The keyboard warriors don’t see Mike Tomlin as human. They see him and his players as entertainers — marionettes to be thrown out when they aren’t living up to expectations. 

Players and coaches are more than gladiators. Tomlin is a champion not just on the football field, but also for an organization called Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit with the goal of trying to end child sex slavery. 

Former Steelers cornerback William Gay's mother was killed by his stepfather when he was a child, and he's been an outspoken advocate against domestic violence ever since. 

James Conner survived cancer and has brought hope to children and others who are afflicted with the disease. 

Last year, Matt Murray lost his father unexpectedly. He’s dealt with three concussions in his short time in the NHL. 

CTE has affected a large, but unknown number of professional athletes, and has severely hampered the quality of life after their careers. 

Last week, Ryan Shazier stood on the sideline of Paul Brown Stadium, the site of the horrific back injury that cost him his ability to play. It was a reminder of how brittle even the strongest of us can be. 

The next time you think about typing out what you think is a harmless tweet, pause for a minute and consider whether that’s something you really want to do. 

Athletes and coaches have brothers, sisters, parents, and significant others. They’ve got issues, responsibilities, and plights that affect each and every one of us. They’re people, not nameless gray faces placed on this Earth to be treated as our entertainment. 

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