When Sidebar was a practicing attorney long ago, he was fond of telling clients they should “Never ever write anything in an email that you wouldn’t want to hear read out loud on the 11 o’clock news.” Once you send an email, he would patiently explain, you lose control of it forever, and it might ultimately end up in places you didn’t want it to go. (For more tips on cybersecurity, read this week’s centerpiece.)
It’s rare that Sidebar’s words of wisdom are illustrated quite so literally, but that’s what happened to one college baseball coach in Texas who wrote something stupid in an email and lost his job after it was read out loud on the 11 o’clock news.
Mike Jeffcoat, former head baseball coach at Texas Wesleyan, got an email from a Gavin Bell, a high school ballplayer from Colorado, expressing interest in TWU. Jeffcoat fired off a response saying that he didn’t recruit players from Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal. Jeffcoat said his program had decided to “not take a chance on Student-athletes from your state” because some past players had had trouble passing the school’s drug test, and told the teenager to “thank your liberal politicians.”
Unfortunately for Jeffcoat, emails have a habit of escaping into the wild. Bell forwarded the reply to someone, who then forwarded it to a Denver news station, where a news anchor (who is also Sidebar’s former journalism school classmate) picked up the story, which soon went viral nationwide.
Ultimately, Jeffcoat lost his job over an email he probably never would have sent if he’d just taken a minute to stop and think before hitting ‘send.’
So the next time Sidebar has to warn someone about the perils of sending anything impertinent via email, he’ll have a great real-world example to illustrate this crucial principle. And now, so do you.