Commentary

Football tweeters in midseason form

Updated: August 13, 2010, 1:49 AM ET
By Ryan Corazza | Special to ESPN.com

Another year of gearing up for the gridiron, another year of news outlets picking up on some social-media indiscretions.

[+] EnlargeBrandon McDonald
Jason Miller/US PresswireCleveland cornerback Brandon McDonald got a little catty on Twitter in a comment about Terrell Owens.

Cleveland Browns cornerback Brandon McDonald called out Terrell Owens with a vulgar tweet. Days later, coach Eric Mangini was lecturing his team about the proper use of the platform.

Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans, in a tweet about the HBO show "True Blood," wrote "not a fan of how they get u hooked w/ 2 seasons then bring on barrage of homosexuality."

After speaking with Eagles management, he later apologized.

And then there was Boise State coach Chris Petersen who, unprompted by any specific incident, banned his players from Twitter this season. He's not the first coach to go this route.

"It's just a distraction that we just don't really need to have right now. There's plenty of time in their lifetime for Twitter," Peterson said about the ban, according to the Idaho Statesman.

Last year around this time, I argued that Twitter felt different and less formal to athletes as compared to a traditional press conference -- even though both are in the public realm.

As such, tweets similar in nature to the above examples were rampant.

But as long as athletes started to figure out that Twitter is just as public as an interview with a reporter -- at least in terms of what they should and shouldn't say from a public relations standpoint -- these sorts of comments might become less frequent.

And while that's still true, I think there's a fresh take to be had with another year of studying the platform under our collective belts, and the same cycle seemingly repeating itself yet again.

These types of comments are essentially still being put out there, because Twitter's real-time nature asks us to get whatever is on the top of our heads out as fast as we can. It's a sounding board for those spur-of-the-moment thoughts that pop up throughout the day. We read about something, so we tweet about it. We're watching something, we tweet about it. We want to get something off our chest, we tweet about it.

This happens millions of times a day to users all over the world.

The inherent nature of the platform draws us to make immediate comments. But sometimes what instantly comes to the top of our heads shouldn't always be put out in a public forum.

And athletes, as we've come to see, are often no different than regular users.

So even though teams and leagues have made a point to instruct athletes about the perils of social media, these indiscretions are still occurring from time to time. The Miami Dolphins, who don't restrict the use of Twitter, recently brought in former White House communications director Kevin Sullivan to address players about speaking with the media and to remind them about using common sense when using social media, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The more an athlete says now via the social-media realm, the more chances there are for praise and adulation. But so too are there more chances for scrutiny and criticism.

It's no longer just the local columnist taking the high road against an insensitive comment an athlete makes; there are the thousands -- and sometimes millions -- of followers who will read the tweet and comment back or blast it out to their followers, and there's a whole new crop of web-based media sites that feed off this kind of stuff as well.

Unless there's an outright ban across the board like Boise State, it's near-impossible to prohibit the independent, off-the-cuff thoughts of thousands of athletes. Even, UDiligence, which I previously profiled, doesn't stop such things. It just seeks to find them, protect the image of the school and then educate the student-athlete afterward.

Now, obviously, it's not all doom and gloom. Plenty of athletes have sent out hundreds -- if not thousands -- of tweets with their accounts and haven't said things that will bring them unwanted or negative attention, while still interacting and having a good time with it.

In fact, I'd argue that's the norm. As Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis, whose grandmother is one of his Twitter followers, told the Sun-Sentinel: "I'm not going to put anything on there that my grandmother won't want to see."

But at the same time, with Twitter's real-time, get-it-up-quick environment, we're likely to continue to see stuff like what McDonald and Herremans recently sent out the masses.

Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.

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