Dear NBA: You Can’t Have It Both Ways on Twitter and Blogs
For those of you who follow sports and even for those of you who don’t, you may have seen the story that Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas has been ” suspended indefinitely” for bringing four handguns to his locker at the Washington, D.C. Verizon Center — as well as allegedly leaving a threatening note for a teammate telling him to “pick one.”
Oh – and to further taint what the NBA would like to be a squeaky-clean image, the dispute with teammate Javaris Crittendon (who allegedly also brandished a LOADED handgun) was over gambling debts. Nice. And there’s the oh-too-cute picture of Arenas making a bang-bang gesture is the Wizards team huddle. Nice.
Until recently, Arenas was literally a poster-boy for the NBA. He had a blog on NBA.com (gone) as well as his own Twitter account (gonzo as well), which apparently helped him get into hot water.
ABC News, in an article entitled “Did the Twitter ramblings of Washington Wizards’ star point guard Gilbert Arenas cause him to be suspended indefinitely by the NBA?” stated:
It’s certainly starting to look that way and now the hoop star may regret using the social networking tool to speak his mind about the recent off-court incident that has him in hot water.
I live and work in Washington, DC, and while quirky and immature, it seems that the NBA and the Washington Wizards have tolerated Arenas’ social media forays — and profited from them as well. If you tweet and gain hundreds of thousands of followers, you gain more popularity and you — and the NBA — benefit from it. Financially, dude. More shirts, more hats, more $$$.
Until you say something they don’t like after you do something stupid. After the story broke, Arenas tweeted:
“i wake up this morning and seen i was the new JOHN WAYNE..lmao media is too funny,”
Peter Vescey of the New York Post broke the gun story. Arenas then tweeted:
“As for the reporter who broke the story – NY post should eject Peter V FROM WRITNG EVERY AGAIN,”
Hmm. Seems like Ol’ Gil doesn’t get it.
Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project said that Twitter and other Web sites are a blessing and a curse for professional athletes:
“They have a new way to engage the public, their fans, and new ways to show a playful side of themselves…a way for them to bond even more deeply with their fans. But things that might seem private or more intimate, playful or spontaneous, appealing in one context, all of a sudden when they’re tweeted out to a wide audience, could take on a different context.”
You’re off the mark, Lee. Tweeting something to a wide audience is not “taking on a different context.” That statement is like saying that you have been misquoted in your own autobiography. Plus, it’s hard to be taken out of context in 140 characters.
If the NBA wants their marketable athletes to tweet, let them tweet. But don’t express horror when they say something that you don’t like, or say something that makes them look dumber than a bag of rocks (hello, handlers). Moreover, you can’t he “half pregnant” – either let the athletes use Twitter when and how they want or not at all. ABC notes:
Under the new social media policy, athletes cannot tweet during game time, which includes the 45 minutes before a game starts, half-time and the period after a game that is traditionally used for press conferences and media interviews. Violators can be fined by the league and face additional sanctions by their team. The NFL has similar restrictions on the time periods when players may not use social media.
My point is this: the NBA WANTS their athletes to find ways to market themselves. It furthers their reach, their audience and their brand. The NBA WANTS people like Gilbert Arenas to blog on their platform. And I tweet all the time at work, in restaurants, wherever. And it rarely distracts me from what I get paid to do.
Here are some screen shots below that show how the NBA is either a little sloppy or a little clueless:
Gilbert is listed under “NBA Player Blogs.” Ok. Cool. Let me click some more:
“Agent Zero Blog File.” Wow. You mean the NBA could have suspended him indefinitely and left his blog up? Wait — it’s moved:
I think that Gilbert Arenas is yet another example of a man-child, pampered athlete whose exploits may have never seen the light of day, save for some investigative reporting by the New York Post. I think that the NBA was happy to have a man-child, pampered athlete use social media — as evidence by the fact that they HOSTED A BLOG FOR HIM. So presumably, they were ok with him tweeting.
But Gilbert did something irrevocably stupid and then made it worse using his Twitter account. That was shut down. Gilbert was no longer a squeaky-clean poster boy, so the NBA shut down his blog (note to Webmaster – “page not found” is stupid and sloppy. Just link to David Stern’s statement, dammit).
Man-child Tweeting? Good. Man-child blogging? It’s all good, baby.
Idiot bringing four handguns to his workplace over gambling debt and then blaming others? David Stern to Gilbert: you are SO outta here, baby.
My final point is that when Gilbert was finally facing his indefinite suspension and grand jury investigation, if you let him blog while he was the poster boy, why not let him blog when he is apologizing all over the place? And why not let him do it on NBA.com? That would demonstrate openness, transparency and prove that social media is not only ok, it can be a pretty good crisis communications tool.
But you can’t have it both ways, Mr. Stern.