Professional Athletes and Social Media

Professional athletes aren’t strangers to the public eye. They play in front of fans in stadiums and around the world. They get paid to play a game and get an incredible amount of attention and adulation. Of course, they also get dumped on when things are tough. Sports fans are not the kindest bunch. Just ask any player in a performance slump or asked to be traded.

Dan Ellis learned the hard way what it means to be a modern professional athlete. He got into Twitter, had thousands of followers but had to delete his account for a mistake he made using the service. Additional commentary by CBC’s Elliotte Friedman and Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski.

Here’s what Ellis had to say about the NHL owners keeping money because of escrow:

If you lost 18% of your income would you be happy? I can honestly say that I am more stressed about money now then when I was in college.

More and more pro-athletes are getting into social media to get their own voices out to fans. Tools such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace eliminate the filter that existed between athletes and fans. But fans don’t want these accounts managed by a team or player rep. They want honesty from athletes when they send out thoughts, ideas and actions. Not advertising for tickets and team-sponsored contests.

The media’s role has always been to give fans what they want from the sport and athletes. This includes post game interviews, extensive statistics, insider information and editorial/opinion pieces. Even though the media has been removed as that filter, fans are still in control of what the sport and athletes provide. They pay to watch the games, support the team by buying apparel and, in essence, pay for the player salaries. It’s a gate-driven business. What fans don’t want is a comment from a millionaire athlete complaining about money problems.

Twitter users are all under the same rules and protocols online. Everyone has an equal voice and range of freedom. This includes following, retweeting, hashtagging, etc. So when fans are unhappy with the game or an athlete, it’s much easier to voice their displeasure and form a community online. Instead of a couple calls coming into the leagues office or a media outlet, a wave of tweets come in mocking the pro-athlete. The barriers to expression are gone so pro-athletes must be more mindful of what they do online.

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