Vanity, thy name is Twitter
Originally Aired: Monday, August 24, 2009. This is a part of the 93-Second Sports Shot series. 93-Second Sports Shots air weekday evenings at 6pm.
Unless you've been living under the proverbial rock for the past year, you've heard of and probably had experiences with Twitter, the ultra popular micro-blogging and social networking site that has taken the world by storm.
In fewer than 140 characters, referred to as a tweet, a person is capable of distributing their thoughts, emotions, complaints, and general nonsense to the internet community at large.
Naturally, Twitter and attention happy professional athletes have so far gone together like Rosie O Donnell and cheesecake. In many ways, it is a savvy opportunity. Popular stars such as Shaquille O Neal, Dwight Howard, Terrell Owens, Lance Armstrong, Serena Williams, and Tony Hawk have been successful at using their tweets as an instant marketing device, and as a vehicle for creating the illusion of a more personal relationship with their legions of devoted fans, or in tweet speak, followers.
All in all, it seems like a nice symbiotic relationship. Athletes get their attention, and Twitter increases its profit opportunity by involving celebrities. But now comes the inevitable pushing of the envelope, giving rise to the question “Should athletes be allowed to tweet DURING contests?”
Last season, Milwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva was reprimanded by coach Scott Skiles for tweeting during halftime, and now the artist formerly known as Chad Johnson wants to use twitter during Cincinatti Bengals games, perhaps as part of his elaborate touchdown celebrations.
The NFL has put its foot down on this matter, prohibiting players from sending tweets during games, and this is the right move. From a public relations standpoint, the effects of this could be disastrous. Even if the NFL said yes to twitter, any rational head coach would ban the use of it among their players during the season, even off the field. Most tweeting is innocent enough, but what if a player accidentally indicates game planning for the next week, or that an injury is actually worse than their team is letting on, or log on to twitter late at night and hint to some unsavory activity. Not to sound like a stick in the mud, but the repercussions of what a professional athlete posts just might be not worth the attention.