Twitter, a digital platform founded in 2006 has become part of the fabric of collegiate and professional athletics. Users can choose to "follow "the tweets selected by individuals. These short comments have the nature of a "stream of consciousness" rather than a well-thought-out communication. “Tweets" allow athletes to communicate instantly with their fans. These messages tend to be spontaneous and unfiltered. Due to the 140-character limit they tend to be brief. The nature of this micro-blogging platform has had both advantages and disadvantages for the athletes. Use of Twitter by college and professional athletes and their fans exploded over the recent years. For example, following last years botched referee call in the Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks game; hundreds of thousands of tweets were received from players and fans over the controversial loss to the Seahawks. The Green Bay Packers showed very little restraint following the game in their tweets. Packers guard Josh Sitton tweeted "Them guys played there heart out on that field both teams and u got these blind def and dum ref's who can count to 10 and one dummy say's", while T.J. Lang tweeted "Got fked by the refs.. Embarrassing. Thanks nfl. Fk it, Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs."
Unfortunately, the spontaneous nature of a Tweet can result in embarrassment or worse for athletes. Due to the stardom of professional athletes, their comments are subjected to more scrutiny than the average tweeter. Athletes may naively "tweet" unfiltered comments while expecting not to be criticized or punished. Many athletes have learned the hard way that inconsiderate, unfiltered tweets don't go unnoticed. Acknowledged as the most inappropriate tweet after 9/11, Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers running back, tweeted "I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style." This incredibly ignorant tweet resulted in universal condemnation as well as a loss of endorsement deals for the once beloved running back. An equally heinous tweet by a well-known athlete followed a shooting at the University of Texas library in 2010. Rival collegiate Oklahoma football player, Jaz Reynolds tweeted "Hey everyone in Austin, tx…kill yourself #evil laugh" after the horrific shooting at the University of Texas. Reynolds followed the tweet with another incendiary remark "Everyone in austin, tx disregard that last tweet…y'all will mess around n do it lmao." This insensitive comment led to the player's suspension from the team. Reynolds' coach Bob Stoops issued a statement saying that "Our rivalry with Texas will not come at the expense of dignity and respect. We have great concern for what happened in Austin and I am incredibly disappointed that someone connected with our team would react so callously." A racist comment by female Greek Olympian triple jumper Voula Papachristou upset sports fans worldwide and led to her dismissal from the Olympic games: “With so many Africans in Greece … At least the West Nile mosquitos…will eat homemade food!!!" By empowering athletes to comment publicly about serious matters beyond the ball field without appropriate deliberation, Twitter can have powerful repercussions for the players and the community. On November 13th, Matt Barnes was ejected from the Clippers-Thunder showdown due to physicality between him and Thunder forward Serge Ibaka. After the game, Barnes posted an ill-advised tweet regarding his attempt to stand up for his teammates. He tweeted "I love my teammates like family, but I'm DONE standing up for these n*! All this s does is cost me money" Barnes was fined 25,000$ and received criticism from fans and his own teammates who felt betrayed. Even personal tweets out of anger from Barnes can have profound repercussions on the entire league, and its fans that once idolized him for his intensity and hardheadedness.
Twitter has also had a positive social impact by allowing competitors to comment on wide ranging important causes and current events outside the realm of the sports arena. Journalists do not typically elicit these comments during post game interviews. Robert Griffin III, the rookie quarterback sensation for the Washington Redskins, tweeted on the health of opposing coach Chuck Pagano who was diagnosed with acute leukemia: "Football is football. But Life is more important. Sending Prayers up for Coach Chuck Pagano during this trying time.” It is important that players who are so idolized by their fans show that sports should be kept in perspective by the public. NFL kicker Jay Feeley of the Arizona Cardinals recently tweeted extensively on the Presidential campaign “I liked Romney's answers on his tax plan and energy independence. Obama had a much better answer on women's equality on business". This undoubtedly encouraged many fans to pay more attention to our political system. Recently, Hurricane Sandy devastated the Northeast coast. NBA basketball and NFL football players expressed their concern and generated charitable donations:@Lakers: We've pledged $50K to the @RedCross for Sandy relief. Will match fan contributions up to additional $50K. *@Amareisreal (Amarâ€™e Stoudemire) As a social media platform, Twitter creates a broader connection between elite athletes and their fans. The spontaneous rapid-fire nature of tweets gives us a window into the minds of our favorite players on issues well beyond the ball field. While these can be beneficial and even profound, others can be ugly and destructive.
It is well known that Internet anonymity can lead to people saying things to athletes that they would never have the courage to say to their faces. Thankfully, the fame of pressures of professional play means many athletes have strong mental toughness. Referring to all the hate speeches, New York Giants wide receiver, Rueben Randle, said “It’s helpful in a lot of other things, so you’ve got to overlook the bad. It’s also positive. It helps out with marketing and branding yourself and things like that. You have to use it.” Randle makes a great point, as a large portion of high profile athlete’s income stem from endorsements. Twitter has also emerged as a new revenue stream for athletes in the form of sponsored tweets. Athletes can be paid in excess of $10,000 for a single 140 character tweet. Keeping a good public image on twitter can have positive effects on a player’s brand and is a way for companies to measure popularity of an athlete. In today’s world public relations is an essential part of an athlete’s life and no relations are more public than social media. If an athlete’s public image is tarnished then they can have their endorsements pulled. Tiger Woods lost an estimated $50 million from 2007 to 2011 due to his actions of adultery.
Twitter additionally serves as an excellent source of behind the scenes sports news. The majority of expert sports analysts post on twitter about breaking sports news. Stefan Bondy, well-known and long time Brooklyn Nets writer, recently tweeted "Lawrence Frank has hired attorney David Cornwell, who also represents Jonathan Martin and Alex Rodriguez" which tells Brooklyn Nets fans that Lawrence Frank could be leaving the coaching staff due to his reassignment from assistant coach. Twitter is also a perfect platform for angry fans to express themselves about recent sports news and put their two-cents into the situation. Avid Nets tweeter, On_fire tweets at Jason Kidd and the Brooklyn Nets organization"@BrooklynNets @RealJasonKidd this experiment was cool but no Defense and no 3rd qt adjustments and u kicked Frank out? Smh. Ur done" in response to Coach Frank's reassignment.
Twitter has also started to play a major role in sports broadcasting. Sport shows such as NFL Live, Sports Center, and TNT’s Inside the NBA encourage fans to tweet to the shows to get questions answered. This aspect of sports broadcasting will keep viewers interested by seeing their own personal tweets answered by professions tweet and allows interaction between the hosts and viewers to make the viewers feel involved in the programming.
Personally, I consider twitter’s most significant feature to be its ability to connect fans with their favorite athletes and teams. The capability to see into your favorite athlete’s thoughts through tweets has exponentially increased viewership in sports and provides fans with off-court entertainment. Through social media, Twitter has created an at-the-game experience for those who can't attend the game. They're able to communicate with other fans about the game and get instant updates on scores and player alerts. For media savvy athletes, twitter allows them to build their brand and build loyalty with their fans. In today's society, it’s unlikely that you'll sit down in front of a game without your smartphone on hand in order to access social media such as Twitter.
Work with freelance storytellers from a myriad of media specialties.