Twitter’s surging popularity has upended the advertising and media industries, and changed the way we watch sports. (See Shaq’s Twitter feed, for evidence).
Still, not all networks, leagues or teams have embraced Twitter. First there was the SEC, then the Miami Heat, and even the NFL is now regulating players’ Game Day tweets. Now comes an anti-Twitter mandate from the Tennis Integrity Unit (yes ... it’s a real arm of the International Tennis Foundation).
The ITF authorities have warned players not to tweet about their on-court activity during the U.S. Open, per the Telegraph, or risk violating the sport’s anti-corruption rules. The concern is that players’ tweets about things like the weather, how they’re feeling, or how rivals’ matches are faring could serve as “inside information” for tennis gamblers.
The Tennis Integrity Unit sent players emails and posted signs in their training areas about not tweeting “sensitive information” while they’re on the court; Mashable notes that the U.S. Open leaders, on the other hand, haven’t established any formal ruling for or against tweets. But since the ITF is the overall governing body for the sport, its mandate would most likely trump the guidelines for any individual venue or tournament.
Social media has given sports fans a level of in-your-face, personal access to their favorite athletes, in a way that carefully-worded press releases, photo ops and on-air interviews could never do. Of course, you can’t blame coaches for wanting to ensure that their players aren’t tweeting when they should be focusing on a game, or leagues, for trying to keep their brand image favorable to sponsors.
But the news and sports organizations that can figure out how to tap into that digital intimacy—and possibly monetize it with things like sponsored Twitter contests or even branded virtual goods on Facebook—are the ones to watch.
By Tameka Kee