Football’s Tough Position on Twitter

20 Oct

Football has always been regarded as a tough sport. Now it is even taking a hard stance towards social media. The National Football League has a strict policy that prohibits players from tweeting 90 minutes before or after every football game, and its proposed fines range up to $25,000.

I agree that the NFL should reserve the right to fine its players for “tweeting” inappropriate content. Everyone is subject to make inappropriate comments, including professional athletes. The NFL is risk-averse towards negative media and should logically restrict players from saying whatever they please.

However, why does the NFL have this stringent rule that completely muzzles players’ comments more than an hour before and after each football game?  Are the NFL executives afraid that the players will let their emotions from the game flow directly into these microblogs, which can then be read by millions of viewers online?

Missing Out on a Lucrative Opportunity

I am wondering why allowing players to interact with their fans through the expression of their emotions be a problem? As a fan, not only do I watch football for its mind-boggling athletic performances, but I also enjoy watching the drama of each game unfold. Every game is a storyline with high points and low points, good guys and bad guys, and a clear winner and loser. How much more interesting would football be if fans could rely on receiving insider commentary from the story’s main characters immediately after each game? The players no longer need to fluff things up to the media; they now have the freedom to communicate 140 characters of pure, raw emotion to the demographic that will admire them no matter what: their fans.

An important part of communicating effectively is timing. Saying the exact same thing can elicit very different responses depending on when these words are said.  For example, a “thank-you” note to an interviewer has a relevancy period of approximately three days. Sending a “thank you” note any later can make the interviewee appear careless and insincere; therefore, a “thank you” note essentially loses its purpose if it arrives more than a few days after the interview. Similarly, with respect to post-game tweets, the NFL is missing out on a very lucrative grace period where they can let their players communicate their true emotions immediately before and after a game, which is a delightful possibility to every football fan.

A Proactive Solution

If the NFL still believes that giving players the freedom to tweet during this period contains too much liability, I suggest that they offer players standard communication skills training. These practices are similar to the ones that large corporations use in order to prepare their executives and spokespersons for public events such as press conferences.

The fact remains that the NFL is missing out on a potentially profitable time period by banning players from communicating with their fans. If they are still concerned over the risks and possible negative backlash, they should invest in proactive programs to prevent potential trouble rather than banning the communication all together.

by Tim Wang

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