Public relations professionals and publicists beware—athletes have discovered Twitter! As dramatic as that sounds, the results of athletes sharing via this ever-growing social platform have mostly produced positive publicity for players who don’t experience as much mainstream coverage as football, basketball, and baseball stars, but have also produced many cautionary tales.
Athletes Take to Social Media
Social media is allowing athletes to share more intimate details about their lives and the games they play. The desire to reach past the media and PR staff has pushed tech savvy players to interact directly with fans by sharing their family lives, excitement, and personalities via social media and sports fans are loving this new level of “closeness.”
Eric Adelson suggests that sports fans place great importance in things like Twitter retweets or (@) mentions, saying, “A retweet from a sports star is the new autograph, accessible (at least in theory) to a fan who can’t get anywhere near a game.”
Although many athletes are making it look easy, promoting personal causes, recording videos, posting photos to Instagram, or working to establish one’s brand on social media can be hard when you already have a full-time job that includes intense workouts, meetings, and traveling. The International Business Times quotes Eddie Royal, a wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers, as saying, “During the season it’s hard because you have so many other things to focus on…You don’t want your team thinking you are too focused on outside stuff.”
While some athletes understand how to successfully leverage their social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, others don’t seem to remember the rule of thumb—never post on social media when you’re angry!
One recent example of negative publicity due to social media sharing wasn’t even due to an athlete, but his wife. On January 22nd, The Baltimore Sun reported that Wes Welker’s wife, Anna Burns Welker, posted a “nasty Facebook rant about Ray Lewis” after the Baltimore Ravens won (28-13) against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game on January 20.
Mrs. Welker promptly released an apology on Jan 22 “through a high-powered PR firm,” the overwhelmingly negative reaction to her comments regarding Ray Lewis’ Wikipedia page and murder acquittal only served to dredge up the comments made by Tom Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, after last year’s Super Bowl—opening old wounds for the New England Patriots after their Super Bowl XLVII hopes were dashed.
College Athletes Beware
According to an article by Sam Laird, some universities are trying to “monitor the online behavior of student athletes through forced access to social media accounts or contracts with third-party tracking companies.”
While many believe this to be a possible violation of the civil rights awarded by the First or Fourteenth Amendment, some believe it a necessary step in protecting reputations on a personal and university-level. As a college athlete, you represent the university and many argue that this is true if you’re wearing your jersey or not—perhaps even more so if you are an athlete attending awarded a university scholarship. This would suggest that a scholarship is a type of payment and that, like professional NFL or NBA athletes, you are susceptible to the social media policies of the university and legitimize monitoring your comments.
What do you think? If the university is “paying you” with a scholarship, does it have the right to monitor your social media activities? Share your opinion below!
- Twitter 2012: How athletes have used social media to become the media
- NCSA | How Coaches Use Social Media to Evaluate Recruits
- How NFL Athletes Use Social Media To Build Their Brand, Land Endorsement Deals