Camera Phones Keep Athletes Accountable On, Off Field
By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- College athletes are used to being in the spotlight, but the wide use of camera phones has many athletes taking steps to protect their image off the field.
A picture showing Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Michael Phelps smoking a bong made headlines last year not just because of what he was doing, but where and how the picture was taken. It was snapped at a college party in South Carolina three months after Phelps shattered records at the 2008 Olympics.
"You never know where the people are going to be, where they're taking pictures," said Sooners offensive lineman Ben Habern.
Habern said he has seen the not-so-subtle fans snapping away when he's out in public.
"A lot of people try to fake it. They're acting like they're texting but really they're looking to take a picture," Habern said.
Actions like that have Sooners defensive end Jeremy Beal on the defensive.
"I was always cautious about where I went. My mom taught me to be smart. I try not to put myself in those situations," Beal said.
But even with those precautions, Beal admitted it's not always easy to avoid the ever-present camera phone.
"With technology nowadays, it's just amazing what people can do with a simple phone. You know, they can take video put it on the Internet and it can be on ESPN the next minute," Beal said.
That's a message Sooners Head Coach Bob Stoops said he has explained to his players time and time again.
"We educate them constantly that there's nothing that they do anymore that isn't public," Stoops said. "There's media everywhere. Today, everyone in their class is a media person. In the end that's just today's world. You have to deal with it."
The University of Oklahoma doesn't have a policy against camera phones and it's not likely the school will institute one, which again has many athletes rethinking their choices on and off the field.
"As athletes, I think you just gotta be conscious of where you're at and what you're doing with people around you," Habern said.
The issue isn't just limited to Oklahoma's college campuses. Both University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and University of Florida's quarterback Tim Tebow recently admitted to having problems with unruly fans wanting them to pose for cell phone pictures.