Coaches and people within management sometimes need to step in to control their players though; player involvement in social media is not always a good thing. The Philadelphia Eagles review the social media accounts of all of their possible draft picks before the NFL Draft in order to determine any character or attitude problems. The Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager, Kevin Colbert, discourages his players from using Twitter, but still allows it under careful watch (Robinson). Most of these incidents occur when a player says something controversial, something that anyone has the right to do under the first amendment (Pasquarelli). But speaking one’s mind can often lead to controversy. Roddy White and Victor Cruz, both top wide receivers in the league, tweeted very harsh and negative responses to the infamous George Zimmerman trial; but after receiving a lot of criticism, they took the tweets down to prevent further injury to their team (Pasquarelli). In 2009, former New York Jets receiver David Clowney complained about his lack of playing time on Twitter and was benched for the next game. Former San Diego Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie was fined $2,500 by the team for complaining about the food in training camp on Twitter (Kishner and Crescenti). While the cases of fines due to Twitter messages in the NFL are few and far between, this has happened multiple times in the NHL and NBA, suggesting that maybe the NFL will adopt a stricter policy soon. But regardless of the teams’ control, the players are still likely to continue to challenge the authority on this issue.
Another effect of social media on the NFL is the ability of players to more easily react to fans’ comments. Twenty years ago, it was basically impossible to directly interact with NFL players, but Twitter and Facebook have made that possible. In 2013, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick responded to fan criticism on Twitter by favoriting negative tweets and then sending an overall response to critics on Instagram (D’Costa). Some long-time veterans of the league have never used social media before, but players like Kaepernick, who is only twenty-six, is much more familiar with it, and is now more susceptible to widespread criticism. Some fans are also venting their frustrations with Fantasy Football to the players they have if they do not perform well. New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs received a death threat from a fan on Twitter in which the fan threatened to kill him and his family if he did not perform to a certain degree (Dorset). While this action is completely unacceptable, it shows how much easier the connection with players can be. Kyle Williams, a former 49ers wide receiver, received multiple death threats on Twitter after fumbling twice that led to a playoff loss for his team (Padilla). These harsh instances provide a sobering reminder of how easy social media has made it to interact with players and teams, but these instances are infrequent enough to detract from the positive sides of it.
It is much more likely that a player-to-fan interaction is a positive one. According to D’Costa, “Use of social media reduces the distance between the athlete as performer and the athlete as a representative. It brings fans closer to the construction of the team and folds the organization more closely into the supporting community.” Pittsburgh Steelers’ center Maurkice Pouncey tweets many times a day and is known within his fan base for interacting directly with his followers by responding to their questions and comments. Steelers’ cornerback Ike Taylor draws in followers by tweeting out inspirational messages every day to make his followers feel happier, and it works based on the fans’ positive responses (Robinson). These examples of positive interactions are much more common than the negative ones and show the true advantage of having social media interaction in the NFL.
But with all of this reach and power, why are the players not using it more to their team’s advantage in terms of marketing? One reason is that they are their own social media accounts, so it would be unfair or even impossible for the teams to make them use these accounts to sell their team’s products unless they get some sort of financial compensation in return. According to a study done in 2010 by faculty at University of Louisville in which they analyzed athletes’ tweets to categorize them to determine how they are using the website, 34% of the tweets were in the interactivity category. They define interactivity in terms of the experiment as “conversations athletes have with other Twitter users via direct messages or responses to posted tweets” (Hambrick et al). And another 28% of the tweets were in the diversion category, which they characterized as “non-sport related communication” (Hambrick et al). Only 5% of the tweets were in the promotional category, meaning athletes are much less likely to use their own accounts to promote their team. And while this study was done a few years ago, the same trend seems to be true; teams are not forcing players to use their accounts to sell their team’s products, but instead are using the team’s official accounts for promotion.
(Works Cited will be included in the final post)