First looking at this prompt, I knew that there were a lot of different directions in which I could take this blog. I debated looking at the role that social media played in the Obama-Romney election, but decided that I wanted to look into something that is even more current and still changing: social media in professional sports. Though not all that noticeable to some, social media has played an increasingly important role in the world of professional sports for both the franchises themselves and the fans. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a professional team that does not operate its own Facebook page and Twitter account and now the leagues are continuously adopting new ways to incorporate social media into its day-to-day operations.
For the dominant sports such as Football, Baseball, and Basketball, social media presents an easy and effective way to keep fans engaged and invested in the sports. For example, the NBA (National Basketball Association) has greatly expanded the role that social media plays in the sport. Most notably, the league implemented dramatic changes to the way it ran its All-Star weekend in 2012 when it used social media to give the fans a much greater role in the action. Whereas the winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Competition was previously decided by a panel of preselected judges, the league instead chose to allow its fans to tweet and text message their own votes to them in order to decide the winner. Likewise, the NFL expanded the role of social media in its own all-star game (The Pro Bowl) this year by allowing, and encouraging, player to send periodic tweets during the game to attract more attention to the game. In the end, both of these moves marked significant shifts in league policies that clearly reflect the rise of social media in our modern society. In both cases, these All-Star games were experiencing diminished viewership as of late and the change added an extra level of excitement to the game which acted as incentivize for fans to become more invested.
Then, for the less attractive sports such as Lacrosse, professional teams and athletes have employed social media tactics to draw much needed attention to the sport. One notable example of this can be seen through a very interesting and unconventional move made by the Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League in 2012. Prior to one of their games, the Wings decided to provide all of its players with Twitter accounts and then post these Twitter handles on the back of each player’s jersey in the place of their actual names. The move drew a great attention from across the country as the number of people following the team on twitter spiked to over 2,000 following the game.
At the same time that social media has brought about positive changes in professional sports, it has also lead to censorship problems for some athletes and teams. As Twitter accounts have become the norm for professional athletes everywhere, teams have relinquished a lot of control over what athletes can say to the general public. Fans and other athletes are constantly talking over twitter about recent happenings and often it leads to questionable and heated responses which athletes cannot take back. One notorious example was when Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie tweeted about another quarterback in the league that he ‘would smash his face in’. Many other examples exist of the same or worse magnitude, all showing how social media is changing the level of exposure that professionals have in our modern world. All teams and leagues have instituted policies about what athletes can and cannot say over these public media venues, but there is only so much that they can do to control what happens in the heat of the moment.