Athletes Need to Tweet with Caution

It’s nearing a point in time when coaches or executives of a sports franchise or team must consider implementing a policy with their players regarding Twitter. The list of players who have embarrassed themselves and/or their team/organization with their tweets seems to be growing daily.

The most recent offender is Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson, who’s no stranger to controversy. Following Sunday’s loss to the San Diego Chargers that dropped the Chiefs’s record to 1-6, Johnson posted a series of messages on his Twitter account criticizing the credentials of Kansas City first-year head coach Todd Haley.

According to a report in the Kansas City Star, one of Johnson’s tweets read: “My father played for the coach from ‘rememeber the titans’. Our coach played golf. My father played for redskins briefley. Our coach. Nuthn.”

Other players from other sports leagues and university athletic teams have also posted tweets they ultimately regretted. Some have criticized fans, some have criticized opposing players, and some, like Johnson, have criticized coaches.

Last month, Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach actually banned his players from having Twitter pages. The mandate came one day after one of his players tweeted: “Wondering why I’m still in this meeting room when the head coach can’t be on time to his on[sic] meeting.”

Leach’s Twitter ban may seem a bit drastic, but at least opponents of the Red Raiders won’t find any inside information on them from Twitter. Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema admitted earlier this season that his staff actually scours upcoming opponents’ Twitter pages while scouting the team.

While banning players from using Twitter is probably a bit of an overreaction, it would be wise for teams and organizations to put the players through a Twitter PR session. Players need to understand there are ramifications from their tweets and if players treated their tweets as though they were speaking directly to the media—I’ve noticed the media has begun using players’ Twitter accounts as a source of information more frequently—they will be less likely to have their names added to the growing list of players that commit Twitter fouls.

Perhaps Nick Barnett said it best. The Green Bay Packers linebacker said he would close his Twitter account (although he continues to tweet) after posting an offensive message to fans. The lesson he learned: he acknowledged that he often gets emotional and he now realizes that “everything is public” on Twitter.


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