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ESPN Soccer Analyst Snitches on College Players Who Mocked Him on Twitter for Anti-Header Stance

The New England Revolution’s all-time leading goal scorer red-carded three University of Massachusetts-Boston players who ridiculed him on Twitter for embracing lawsuit-forced rule changes to youth soccer that eliminate heading for under tens and limit them for slightly older players.

The players called Taylor Twellman another name for a cat and instructed him to “quit life” after the former soccer player and current concussion-awareness activist praised the changes catalyzed by litigation rather than the sport’s rulemakers in the Boston Globe. The 2005 Major League Soccer MVP then took the trouble to investigate his critics, discovering that they play for UMass-Boston, before snitching on them by including two of the school’s Twitter handles in a tweet shaming the players.

The ESPN analyst included the phrase “shows a real lack of leadership there” apparently in an effort to bait the institution’s authorities to respond with punitive action against his collegiate critics. Now on the eve of UMass-Boston’s second soccer berth in the NCAA tournament, the players face discipline from their school.

“We hold our student-athletes to the highest standards of conduct and do not tolerate this kind of behavior on social media, or anywhere else,” vice chancellor Charlie Titus explained in a prepared statement. “These comments in no way reflect the views of the university or the men’s soccer program. UMass Boston applauds Taylor for the important work he is doing to raise awareness of head injuries in soccer. These student-athletes will face disciplinary action.”

The school posted the statement as the wider University of Massachusetts system inaugurated former Congressman Marty Meehan as its president. Whether distracted or to distract, the school’s statement referred amorphously to “discipline” without specifying if the intemperate speech by the players rates sidelining them for postseason play or cutting their halftime orange-slice rations.

Earlier this week, the United States Soccer Federation, the United States Youth Soccer Association, American Youth Soccer Organization, US Club Soccer, and the California Youth Soccer Association submitted to demands for new substitution rules, a stricter concussion return-to-play protocol, and restrictions on headers to settle a lawsuit filed last year in a U.S. district court in California. The UMass-Boston players implied in their tweets that the changes put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage in international play and further stigmatize a sport seen as soft by Americans ignorant of it.

Headers result in more concussions in soccer than any other activity, with the vast majority of mild traumatic brain injuries coming through a clash of heads. Twellman became an outspoken activist on the issue of concussions after a mild traumatic brain injury helped cut his MLS career short. He launched the THINKTaylor Foundation to raise awareness of sports-related concussions and legated his brain to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.

The UMass-Boston Beacons play the University of Scranton Royals in the NCAA Tournament in Canton, New York, on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

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