As President of the United State, Donald Trump is not allowed to block any of his constituents on Twitter. Today, a federal district court judge in New York ruled that he cannot. That decision could have an impact on other employees of various states, including college football and basketball coaches.
Across the country, many of the highest paid state employees are college coaches. Almost every single one of those coaches are on social media, for recruiting, publicity, and myriad other reasons. And because it is college sports, they get plenty of angry fans in their mentions.
I can't imagine most college coaches, or those who manage their accounts, are taking too much time to read through those angry messages. However, a few have been known to be quick to block.
Based on Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald's ruling, that may no longer be allowed, though. From her decision:
"This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, "block" a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States. The answer to both questions is no."
Now, maintaining the First Amendment freedoms for Michigan fans to troll Urban Meyer online is not exactly the same thing as what this case was about. Trump uses his Twitter as an official platform to discuss policy and the direction of the country. Still, this could very easily be interpreted to apply to public school coaches as well.
Awful Announcing's Andrew Bucholtz weighed in on the impact that this could have on college football coaches:
Considering that NCAA coaches and athletic directors at public universities are state employees (and some of the best-paid state employees), and that their Twitter accounts are also ways to communicate to the public about their position (something detailed early on in that decision), it would seem likely that this ruling would suggest they might wind up in First Amendment trouble by blocking critics. (Don’t expect “It’s a personal account” to work as a defense, either, as that doesn’t work with private email accounts, and the Twitter account in question here is President Trump’s personal account.)
Of course, someone is probably going to have to make a legal challenge to force a coach's hand. That doesn't really seem worth it for most of us.
There is also still recourse for those public officials who want to keep trolls off of their Twitter feeds. Muting is still legal, according to the decision.