Twitter, the fickle friend of many an NFL and NBA player, is now proving equally damaging on an international stage.
First, Greece dropped a triple jumper after she mocked African immigrants. Now, a Swiss soccer player has been expelled after allegedly sending a racist message in 140 characters or less after the Swiss team lost 2-1 to South Korea on Sunday.
But can it benefit athletes in London as well? Team USA track and field team members are protesting "Rule 40" by using the hashtag #wedemandchange in their tweets. Rule 40 is one of a several strict guidelines designed to prevent athletes from naming sponsors not officially recognized by the Games. They can suffer penalties up to disqualification if, for example, they hold a Pepsi in their hand during an interview instead of a Coke.
The athletes aren't looking to turn medal ceremonies into NASCAR victory lane celebrations. But they would like to at least thank their sponsors during the games, or be allowed to have their pictures taken wearing gear from the hand that feeds them. They want the decision about which sponsors they promote taken out of the hands of the IOC.
Among the leaders of the movement appears to be Dawn Harper. The gold medalist in the 100-meter hurdles in Beijing tweeted the image above as she went to sleep Sunday night. It was the last of a series of tweets featuring the hashtag. Also on board were 200-and 400-meter specialist Manteo Mitchell, reigning 2012 World Indoor 400-meter champ Sanya Richards-Ross, and Nick Symmonds, who auctioned off space on his left arm for a temporary tattoo to advertise a sponsor this past season.
"Rule40 can kiss my temporarily tattooed butt," Symmonds wrote. "I wouldn't be in London today without my sponsors!"
Added Mitchell: "I am PROUD to represent my Country... but at the end of the day... THIS IS MY JOB!!!!!!"
The movement doesn't have many detractors (other than the IOC). A quick check of the #wedemandchange hashtag shows hundreds of supporting tweets starting to span the globe. The fact that billions exchange hands during the Olympics and only a fraction goes to the athletes has earned them a sympathetic audience.
"Tell me how athletes are supposed to use pride to pay rent (and) buy food?," asked Adeline Boshears (@rocybismee).
So far, no change. But let's hope it doesn't come to this:
"IOC should ban internet connections in the Olympic Village," joked Deon Kruger (@Tokoloshe79) of South Africa. "That will sort out these rebellious athletes."