The other day, my colleague, David Weir, pointed out the similarities between NFL brass and Iranian clerics. Well, the similarities are growing. The New York Times reports today that Green Bay Packers management and Miami Dolphins Coach Tony Sparano are among those trying to limit or ban Twitter usage by their players, as the National Football League looks to develop "a policy that would apply to the use of social media sites on the day of the game."
While, for instance, banning such sites only on the day of the game, in this context, sounds positively enlightened, my guess is that, in the near-term, we'll see more and more teams cracking down entirely on usage of Twitter, Facebook and other existing social media platforms, with new rules coming down the pike every time a guy in his garage in northern California comes up with a popular new way to communicate.
But that's not the solution. The solution for the NFL, and any other entity with secrets to protect, is to develop guidelines for social media usage, and expect its employees (in this case, players), to abide by them. And if they don't, then lower the boom by imposing restrictions, but individually, on those who never met a keyboard they didn't want to share from. The sheer power of social media tools is unstoppable, and even in more limited social settings, such as text messaging, the ability for keyboard strokes to make their way into the social stream will always be there. You can patch the bucket all you want, but holes will still sprout.
There will be pain involved as players occasionally overstep their bounds -- but frankly that's a learning curve that all of us are on; best to get it over with and be as done with as you can be, given that there will always be people who will talk out of turn. For the most part, the stuff coming out of most NFL players' tweet streams is just as prosaic as anyone else's tweets. Here are a few via the Washington Post:
@thecooleyzone Had a six inch Sub for lunch and now I'm headed back to practice number 2. Ugh.As a fairly prolific writer on the social media scene, the scary, "out there" nature of social media is a problem I'm well aware of. I'm constantly trying to judge how much of my own world is too much to share. And although there's no game strategy for me to give away -- which seems at the core of NFL concern -- all of us have parts of our being that remain sacred, or should be. So, while these NFL teams may think that their situations are somehow special, they aren't. We all have parts of our lives that are best shared in small settings, like among family, friends, or team, but to over-legislate this is the wrong answer.
@keloi16 "Man breaking in new cleats on the first day of practice might be the worst thing to go thru besides a knee injury!!!!"
Of course, the other element that NFL executives who have trouble with Twitter are missing is that Twitter is a phenomenal PR tool, allowing fans to feel as though they have a close, personal relationship with players who tweet. That's invaluable. What a great bit of voyeurism it is to see that Shaquille O'Neal's last tweet, sent yesterday to Lance Armstronng, was the following:
@lancearmstrong ok, yer done wit da tour. i wanna challenge u. last wk aug, 1st wk sept? dm me, good buddyDo I even need to tell you how compelling that is to rabid Shaq and Lance fans? No. I don't. Point made.