Gone are the days when it takes a drawn out press conference to call it quits. An athlete’s final moments do not need to take place in front of dozens of cameras and on looking reporters; they do not need to consist of long-winded speeches while choking back tears. Now all it takes is a post; an online recognition of the end that can allow an athlete to walk away from the game on their own terms.
This week, we got yet another example of an online departure, thanks to (former) Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) running back Arian Foster (@ArianFoster). Foster, despite injuries, was one of the NFL’s (@NFL) feature backs during his tenure in the league, but he most certainly did not parlay that into a hero’s goodbye. There was no prelude, no fanfare, no bells and whistles – just a blog post via UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted). And, while this is a far stretch from the retirement announcements that fans may be used to, Foster’s tactics are quickly becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Sure there are still those who go the old fashioned route, but that doesn’t mean the new era hasn’t already made waves. And what’s more, athletes are finding a wide variety of online platforms to share their news, be it via social media, websites, or blogs. Within the last calendar year, we’ve seen similar acts from David Moss (@djmoss25), who recently tweeted out a statement that he was ending his NHL (@NHL) career; Jared Allen (@JaredAllen69), who posted a brief, albeit appropriate, video of him metaphorically and literally “riding off” into the sunset; and Michael Cuddyer (@mcuddy23) who penned a heartfelt essay, “Play Hard and Dream Big,” for The Players’ Tribune (@PlayersTribune). Each of these professional athletes opted against the typical approach, but their retirement announcements were special nonetheless.
More than these individuals’ unique online approaches, some have even taken it a step further. One of the greatest basketball players of all-time, for instance, said his farewell in a poem. Like Cuddyer, Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) used The Players’ Tribune to share the news of his retirement, but did so in a way that will forever be remembered for its impact, as he presented his announcement in one of the most unique, personal, and memorable ways possible. On the flip side, we witnessed a similarly impactful retirement from Marshawn Lynch (@MoneyLynch), who as usual, was not one for many words. In fact, #BeastMode didn’t use a single word in his announcement, instead just sharing a picture of cleats hanging from a telephone wire. And for all of the can’t-miss rushes Lynch had on the field, his online efforts may be even more memorable.
It may not be what fans are used to, but it is something we’re seeing more and more. We, for one, love to see professional athletes step out from behind the microphone. Their words (or pictures) ring just as loud and true even if they aren’t heard in the same manner; their tactics better reflect their personality and allow them to create an announcement that fits them and their career; and their efforts better align with the growth of social and digital media within the sport industry, something that athletes are becoming more in-tune with every day.
Let’s face it, social media is no longer just for posting scores or sharing highlights; it’s become one of the most powerful tools for athletes to incorporate into one of the most important and emotional decisions of their professional career. So for every athlete who chooses to forgo the more old school formula, we welcome the more unpredictable, stand-out efforts that have made their retirements live on well after they click ‘send’. And we can’t wait to see what the next such approach will bring!