23rd Oct 2015 | by: admin

In his first post as part of the Hook Media team, former US college Football punter, Sean O’Kane felt moved to voice his opinion on the abhorrent online treatment of fellow-Aussie punter Blake O’Neill, following his involvement in his side’s last minute defeat this week.

The hate, cyberbullying and death-threats directed toward online are part of the ugly side of the modern day athletes existence, something completely unacceptable as any level. As Sean says…


Guess What? Athletes Are People Too.

By Sean O’Kane

There was TEN seconds left in Sunday’s American College Football game between cross-state rivals Michigan & Michigan State.

Michigan (Ranked number 12 team in the USA) had the game sewn up  and Michigan State (Ranked 7) was expecting a minor miracle to come away with the victory in front of 110,000+ screaming home fans.

Up steps Blake O’Neill – The Michigan Football 5th Year Senior and Australian-Born Punter, on a 4th down and 2.

With a large amount of confidence from punting an 80-yard kick earlier in that game, O’Neill fumbled a low snapped ball from his long-snapper, Scott Sypniewski.

He then attempted to recover and kick the ball but only to be dispossessed and Michigan State recovered (the ball) to run it in for a touchdown as time expired.

This circumstance is any athlete’s worst nightmare. It’s disappointing for O’Neill, his supporters and his Michigan Wolverines teammates and fans

But behind this disappointment, it’s important that fans realize the fumble was a mistake and in particular, the fans online.


What followed after the game in Michigan was a large amount of people entering their social networks after the game to ‘voice’ their opinion.

I understand as a sporting fan, the desire to instantly share that opinion.

Whether you have an affiliation with the team participating or you are a general lover of sport.  But when opinions on athletes are tailored at their personal profile, that’s when it needs to stop.

So-called ‘fans’ tailored death threats and hatred to O’Neill’s personal Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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These vile posts need to stop because the person attached to the account can see them.  Athletes are people. They are users on social media too. And, in this case, a full time student-athlete, studying abroad who does not get paid for playing his chosen sport.

Having been a punter myself in 2014 for Middle Tennessee State and playing College Football in the USA, I know that athletes check their mentions on Twitter, no matter how big or how small your profile in a College Football Team.

They can read what any ‘keyboard warrior’ sitting on his phone or computer at home is writing whether it’s sent directly ‘@’ you, or not. It’s in cyberspace once you click send.

So if you’re thinking about posting negative comments such as death threats and suicidal comments, DON’T. Hit the backspace button on your tweet, delete that Instagram comment and direct your hatred on a boxing bag or something…(maybe that would get the people from behind the keyboard active for a change).

Turn that negative energy into positives and support O’Neill and what he has already accomplished for the Wolverines this year.

I also know that O’Neill, along with other Australian punters in the United States have made it to this particular level of competition through pure hard work back in Australia, and belief within themselves to do the top job at a consistent level.

Put his numbers in perspective. O’Neill has averaged 41.1 yards and kicked the furthest punt in NCAA Division 1 Football this season. O’Neill was playing to a crowd 110,000 people and millions on a primetime ESPN.

Hey all negative/abusive tweeters, direct your attention to those facts.

As SEC Network Host Joe Tessitore said “He’s going to be just fine”.

O’Neill has made it to one of the top teams in the United States and is the starting punter for a team that can still challenge for the College Football playoff, in a league they call THE BIG 10.

Athletes in general are taught to bounce back from this type of adversity, it’s preached at a college level. And you can bet your bottom dollar O’Neill will get on with his next game like usual.
In fact, on Tuesday O’Neill already went looking for the media, publicly telling them that he’s getting ready for the next game against Minnesota and that you’ve got to “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go again”.

It’s also nice to know that compassion and humanity, mixed in with a bit of common sense won the day – that the 22% of negative Tweets (via Sentiment140) directed at O’Neill’s twitter account were overshadowed by the 78% of positive ones.

These positive tweets came moments after the incident occurred in Ann Arbor.

Not to mention the Aussie athletes already punting in the USA & a kicker that has been in a similar situation before!




Oh, and his facebook fan page? 19,000 people and growing.

Can we educate people in this area? Of course we can.  It’s the simple effort to inform someone to not bully, throw insults and/or offensive slurs at someone over the Internet. Social media needs to take a complete stand on this as well, making sure that Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms are tracking down these consistent offenders and banning them.

The point is to think before you post and make good decisions online. And to realize that it’s just a game. And in this game the Wolverines and general public have defeated the keyboard warriors.



Our book ‘Social Media Scouting Report – Helping Aussies Athletes to Shine Online’ by Ryan Mobilia is coming soon. It provides examples and step-by-step guides to becoming known as someone of value online. Watch the video introduction and learn more about it here: http://www.hookmedia.com.au/book/





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