By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Something has happened to the NFL that the people running the league likely never expected to happen: Ratings have dropped. Somewhat significantly.
The reasons for the drop are numerous, but the buzzword that likely sends chills down the spines of some elderly men in suits is this one: cord cutting.
In some respects, the NFL has tackled this brave new world head-on, most notably by airing some of its Thursday night games for free on Twitter. But now that ratings are down, the league apparently doesn't feel too fondly about the social media platform.
According to Mashable and Sports Illustrated, the league sent a memo to all 32 teams this week stating that any team posting "unapproved video" or "exceeding the limits on video" on Twitter will be subject to a fine. A hefty fine.
The first offense will draw a $25,000 fine, while a second offense will cost a team $50,000. Any further offenses will cost $100,000 a pop.
That's a lot of dough.
"Video" in this case includes "any moving content," so GIFs are out, too.
SI's Albert Breer summed up the policy thusly:
"To put that in perspective, Broncos safety Darian Stewart was fined $18,231 for his high hit on Cam Newton in the opener. Under this policy, if Denver had posted video of the hit, the team could incur a heavier penalty for a first-time offense."
More rules: The almighty NFL is merciful enough to allow teams to retweet videos posted by the official league account, because if anyone's going to grab eyeballs away from televisions, it's at least going to be an NFL-owned entity.
Brian McCarthy, VP of communications for the league, told Mashable that the new measures are totally normal and not at all a reaction to the declining television ratings. (Those of us who have heard many NFL statements over the years have been conditioned to not accept them fully at face value. This may well have been a decision reached by owners that's purely coincidental to the ratings drop, but instituting a brand-new, harsh system of punishment six weeks into a season would be rather odd behavior for a league of such high profile.) He stated the perfunctory buzzwords that are required from businesses when discussing social media, telling Mashable that the NFL wants "to drive engagement and fan development."
You can send your Thank You cards to the league for helping you develop as a fan to 345 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10154. That's a retro way of "engaging," for sure.
One has to wonder if GIFs such as these will be banned:
Ah! The GIFs! Make them stop! Make them stop! So offensive! Must. Be Banned.
You've got to respect the NFL's hustle this year. They penalized and fined Washington cornerback Josh Norman for pretending to use a bow and arrow, because it's too violent! (Please ignore those men and women shooting actual guns on the sidelines of Patriots games. They're lovable little Minutemen! They'd never hurt anyone!) They've also come down hard on Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown for shaking his butt after scoring touchdowns, because butt shaking is "sexually suggestive"! (Pay no attention to the gratuitous shots of those half-nude cheerleaders when the networks come back from commercials! Those are classy ladies, OK? Don't get any ideas!)
And now, despite a rather loud chorus of people expressing their reasons for not watching football -- ranging everywhere from the league's terrible treatment of men who abuse their wives and girlfriends, to a difficult-to-watch over-officiated game riddled with penalty flags, to perceived disrespect on the whole national anthem situation, to some of the downright putrid matchups that have filled the prime-time slots this season -- the NFL is cracking down on ... teams posting some videos and GIFs on Twitter during games.
Given everything we know about how the NFL responds to bad news, that seems about right.
The new policy doesn't go into effect until Week 6 of the season, so enjoy all the team-sanctioned GIFs and videos you can this weekend. They will be missed.
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