By now, you’ve probably heard about Twitter sometime over this week for one reason or another. Earlier this week, the social networking website made headlines when ESPN announced its social networking policy. On top of that, 12 NFL teams banned the use of Twitter by its media members during practice while most teams banned their players from using it. On Thursday, the website went down for hours due to a denial of server attack. This lengthy post has a rundown of all the Twitter-related sport news from this week with my opinions mixed throughout.
NFL & Twitter
When I started using Twitter last September, I took note of the number of athletes and professional teams using the social networking platform. The NFL had the fewest representatives on Twitter, but there was only a total of about 35 athletes or teams using it at the time. Today almost every pro team has an account, but the level of use varies from organization to organization.
Some people herald Twitter and other social networking websites as the answer to marketing the organization. It’s the end all be all for these people. I disagree. I believe Twitter and Facebook can be great assets for teams and athletes as they look to engage their fans. These websites are great places to hold contests, offer unique content and information, and provide the fans another way to connect with the team. Below are some examples and articles of teams and athletes effectively using Twitter:
- New York Jets embracing Twitter (SportsBiz with Darren Rovell)
- Washington Red Skins Trent Shelton is an inspirational tweeter (Eye on Sports Media)
- Shaquille O’Neal was on Twitter while eating at a diner and met some fans there thanks to Twitter. He also gave away two free tickets to a Phoenix Suns game to the first of his followers to tag him at a local mall.
- The Phoenix Suns hosted the first ever NBA tweetup where twitterers, who are also Suns fans, got to meet Shaq and the team’s GM after a game.
Until this past week, we haven’t heard many teams address the negative sides of these sites. We finally heard coaches and management express concerns over the use of Twitter and other websites. What are they concerned about?
- That an athlete would talk about something that would cause the team to lose out on its competitive edge. Teams have banned players from tweeting at team functions for this reason. The Green Bay Packers will fine players a maximum of $1,701 each time they tweet during team functions.
- Saying something that would reflect negatively on the organization. For example, Antonio Cromartie was fined $2,500 for tweeting about the San Diego Chargers’ poor food. As petty as this may seem to some, I understand that the team would not want any negative comments made by its own players about the organization.
- Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for Minnesota Vikings’ wide receiver Aundrae Allison, used Twitter to say, “The Vikings have informed me that they will be waiving receiver Aundrae Allison by 5pm today if he isn’t traded first.” The Sports Ace reminds us that it’s a great tactic for the agent as he achieves his client’s wishes, but not such good news for the team who watched his trade value evaporate.
- Fake accounts have teams worried. Tony La Russa took on Twitter when he learned of the things being spouted off online by the fake Twitter account.
Darren Rovell of CNBC’s SportsBiz reminds us that teams should “just tell them [athletes] not to tweet anything they wouldn’t tell a reporter.”
I do not want to see athletes tweeting during games or practices because they are being paid to focus on their play and the game — not updating fans. So I have no complaints with teams or leagues not allowing their athletes to do that. What I do have a problem with is when teams prevent their reporters from tweeting at practice. Currently there are 12 NFL teams that have this ban in place, going against the NFL’s recommendations. The reporters are there already covering the practice and will cover what happened in their article later that day or the following morning. Why can’t they tweet about their observations if they are already allowed to write about it later?
As long as the media only tweets about stuff they can report (e.g. avoiding a comment on a trick play, etc.), why can’t they? And what about training camp sessions that are open to the public? You know some of those fans are tweeting or blogging about the camp’s activities from their phone so why is the media prohibited from doing so when it’s their job to disseminate information?
Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star wasn’t too happy in this USA Today piece:
If a tweeting fan sees that a player is not participating in practice, he can inform the public that so-and-so is hurt and was held out of practice. A reporter, however, can go to the public relations director and find out that the player had to attend a relative’s funeral and will return tomorrow. If a reporter can’t tweet the true story, that fan-produced misinformation is then out in the public sphere for an hour or even more. …
At one point the other day, I asked Colts public relations director Craig Kelley, if I take two steps to the right, join the fans and tweet from the stands, is that OK? I was told I would be jeopardizing my post-practice access to coaches and players. …
This is something every media outlet, especially newspapers, needs to fight and fight hard. These pointless, arbitrary rules by backward-thinking paranoids put us at a competitive disadvantage and prohibit us from doing our jobs.
The Denver Broncos originally banned their reporters from tweeting or blogging updates from camp, but they are at least consistent in that they do not allow fans to bring cell phones or laptops so they too could not tweet or blog. Whether you agree or not with their decision, at least they are consistent. They later amended their policy after receiving the league’s memo. They will now allow reporters to tweet and blog during practices open to the public, but will not be able to do so once practices are closed off to the public.
The NFL is working on a league-wide policy for players, coaches, and team personnel on gamedays according to a Washington Post blog.
ESPN & Twitter
ESPN’s Bill Simmons argued with Watchdog’s Neil Best that Twitter is not a fad:
You’re smarter than this.
Twitter is not a fad. Nothing that breaks news consistently can be considered a fad. It is completely changing the way that athletes, celebs and writers interact with fans. Pretty soon it will change the way teams, companies and businesses interact with consumers. And we’re only in the 1.0 version of it.
I can reach 550K people right now in less than 2 seconds. You cannot call that a fad.
Last Tuesday, ESPN’s social networking policy leaked out. Apparently they agree with Simmons that Twitter has some staying power and they needed to address it. Before we get into the nitty gritty details of the policy and people’s reactions, remember that it isn’t surprising for companies to have these types of policies (e.g. Associated Press, IBM, Marines, etc.). ESPN.com’s Rob King discussed their reasoning for this policy with SportsBusiness Daily.
In a nutshell, the ESPN policy prevents any social networking that does not serve ESPN. Reporters are still allowed to use Twitter, but in a more limited role. They can only tweet something that they would be willing to report on-air or write for ESPN.com, which makes sense since it sounds like their tweets will also be posted on ESPN.com in the near future.
ESPN employees are not allowed to have personal websites or blogs that have sports content. The policy also notes that employees cannot tweet about internal policies (this is something likely in every social networking policy) or disparage competitors or other employees.
The Daly Planet discusses how it will impact NASCAR coverage and addresses concerns that it will make the ESPN employees less personable. The Arena Blog has an in-depth look at how ESPN’s PR staff responded to the leak/announcement.
The full social networking policy is listed below:
SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDELINES FOR ESPN EMPLOYEES
These guidelines apply to all ESPN employees who participate in any form of personal social networking. If you are an ESPN talent, or reporter engaged with social media, please also refer to those additional guidelines.
ESPN understands that employees may maintain or contribute to personal blogs, message boards, conversation pages and other forms of social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) outside of their job function and may periodically post information about their job or ESPN’s activities on these outlets. If an employee posts ESPN or job-related information, they are required to exercise good judgment, abide by ESPN policy, and take the following into consideration.
ESPN employees are obligated to be aware of and comply with any applicable provisions set forth in ESPN’s Employee Handbook and The Walt Disney Company’s Standards of Business Conduct. Employees may not disclose confidential or proprietary company information or similar information of third parties who have shared such information with ESPN. ESPN’s intellectual property, logos, trademarks, and copyrights may not be used in any manner.
If an employee is engaging on external social media platforms personally, they should not use the company’s name in their identity (e.g. username, “handle” or screen name), nor should they speak as a representative of the company. If a media inquiry is generated, please direct it to the Communications Department.
If you are an ESPN talent, reporter, writer, producer, editor or other editorial decision maker or a public-facing ESPN employee, you are reminded that when you participate in public blogs or discussion activities, you are representing ESPN just as you would in any other public forum or medium, and you should exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for your colleagues, business associates and our fans. All posted content is subject to review in accordance with, ESPN’s employee policies and editorial guidelines.
ESPN’s Values expressly state that care and respect for employees and each other will always be at the heart of our operations and that we are passionately committed to teamwork. Employees are responsible for acting in a manner that is consistent with our company Values. To that end, employees are expected to be courteous, respectful, and thoughtful about how other employees may be affected by postings. Incomplete, inaccurate, inappropriate, threatening, harassing or poorly worded postings may be harmful to other employees, damage employee relationships, undermine ESPN’s effort to encourage teamwork, violate ESPN policy or harm the Company, which may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. Employees bear full responsibility for the material they post on personal blogs or other social media.
For purposes of this policy, a “personal blog” or “social media” includes personal websites and all forms of on-line community activities such as on-line social networks, message boards, conversation pages, and chat rooms. If you have any questions regarding this policy and its application, please contact either your manager or the Human Resources Department.
ESPN regards social networks such as message boards, conversation pages and other forms of social networking such as Facebook and Twitter as important new forms of content distribution. As such, we expect to hold all talent who participate in social networking to the same standards we hold for interaction with our audiences across TV, radio and our digital platforms. This applies to all ESPN talent, anchors, play by play, hosts, analysts, commentators, reporters and writers who participate in any form of personal social networking that contain sports related content.
ESPN Digital Media is currently building and testing modules designed to publish Twitter and Facebook entries simultaneously on ESPN.com, SportsCenter.com, Page 2, ESPN Profile pages and other similar pages across our web site and mobile platforms. The plan is to fully deploy these modules this fall to provide coverage of this content on ESPN domains.
- Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted
- The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content
- Prior to engaging in any form of social networking dealing with sports, you must receive permission from the supervisor as appointed by your department head
- ESPN.com will choose the sports related social media content that it will post
- If ESPN.com opts not to post sports related social media content created by ESPN talent, those individuals are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on their personal platforms
- Understand that at all times you are representing ESPN
- Be mindful that all posted content is subject to review in accordance with ESPN’s employee policies and editorial guidelines. If you wouldn’t say it on the air or write it in your column, don’t post it on any social network
- Exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for your colleagues, business associates and our fans
- Avoid discussing internal policies or detailing how a story or feature was reported, written, edited or produced and discussing stories or features in progress, those that haven’t been posted or produced, interviews you’ve conducted, or any future coverage plans.
- Steer clear of engaging in dialogue that defends your work against those who challenge it and do not engage in media criticism or disparage colleagues or competitors
- Confidential or proprietary company information or similar information of third parties who have shared such information with ESPN, may not be shared
Any violation of these guidelines could result in a range of consequences, including but not limited to suspension or dismissal.
We realize this is a fast moving space and recognize the guidelines will have to be assessed frequently and amended as needed. Thank you for your cooperation.