SBD/Issue 221/Franchises

Chargers Fine Heightens Dispute Around NFL Players' Twitter Use

Cromartie Fined $2,500 For Complaining
About Food Chargers Provide At Camp
With Twitter "already at the fore of discussion in NFL circles, the debate over its effect on the league and its players was ramped up" when the Chargers yesterday fined CB Antonio Cromartie $2,500 for a "complaint about the food the team provides," according to Kevin Acee of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Chargers coach Norv Turner last Friday "banned tweeting from the Chargers' building and also any tweets that were 'detrimental' to the team." Cromartie yesterday said, "I think (the fine) was steep. I'm not going to take back what I said. I thought it was harmless." He added he is "going to have to be more careful what I say." Following Turner's edict on Friday, Chargers LB Shawne Merriman on his Twitter feed wrote, "Coach said we cant tweet in the building so i called my lawyer and found a lupo in that contract  ... tweeting outside yeaaaaaa." A source said that Merriman "was not fined because his tweet was not considered derogatory about the team." Turner, expounding on the team's policy, said, "We deal with all forms of media. We're happy to be open and give fans a look at what we're doing. We're not going to go out of our way to give our opponents a competitive edge or give (people) something we feel should stay in the building." Acee notes many NFL GMs and coaches have "expressed concern over Twitter and reportedly have set team policies similar to the Chargers." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said a team's attempt to govern Twitter usage is "no different than any organization or company monitoring what its employees say publicly to ensure it is consistent with company policy" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/5).

WATCH WHAT YOU TWEET: CNBC.com’s Darren Rovell writes yesterday was the “single most damaging day for the brand” of Twitter. It began with more NFL teams “banning players from tweeting during business hours, continued with a more stringent policy by ESPN ... and eventually ended with news that 10 NFL teams were not allowing reporters to tweet from open, public practices.” While we “all love to hear the inside dirt” from the players, “just because it’s sports doesn’t mean it isn’t a private business.” Rovell: “Should Cromartie be fined for his ‘nasty food’ comment? I don’t think so. Should he have been fined if he tweeted the name and the idea of a new Chargers play from the playbook? Of course.” Teams have to understand that there is “value for fans in getting an inside look and they should encourage players to keep tweeting,” but should also “tell them not to tweet anything they wouldn’t tell a reporter” (CNBC.com, 8/5). ESPN's Mike Greenberg said, "The whole thing with guys tweeting stupid things, you know what? It’s really not hurting anybody. Antonio Cromartie complaining about the quality of the food at training camp really isn’t hurting anybody. It sounds like a kid at summer camp" ("Mike & Mike In The Morning," ESPN2, 8/5).

Kawika Mitchell Criticizes Chargers Fining
Cromartie For Tweeting About Food
PLAYERS' RESPONSES: Bills LB Kawika Mitchell yesterday tweeted, "I'm sure you'll complain. Our voice is our rite. It's bullsh!t that the league is scared of twitter. We have opinions. We sit back...and listen to all the bullsh!t media, coaches and fans have to say, so if the chargers food sucks. It sucks. Please! B mad at real sh!t" 49ers LB Takeo Spikes referred to the Cromartie situation when he tweeted, “Just finished a DECENT lunch & about to hit practice."

UP TO THE TEAM: NFL Panthers coach John Fox yesterday said that he "doesn't mind if his players use 'Twitter' to communicate with fans and friends, but he's cautioned them to be careful about what they write" on the site. Fox: "We've just made our guys real aware that whatever you put on there is going to be fair game, so they're aware of it" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/5). ESPN's Mike Golic: "Football wants to be careful about how it’s used and before the league even comes up with a policy, obviously teams are" ("Mike & Mike In The Morning," ESPN2, 8/5). FanHouse.com's Jay Mariotti noted the Packers have are "outlawing tweeting within team functions, and I think it’s a good idea. It can be distracting. … Guys, focus on your jobs. Tweet in your off-time” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/4).

POWER TO THE PEOPLE?: In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz notes while the NFL has recommended teams to "allow tweeting, blogging and Facebooking during training camp," 12 of the league's 32 teams have "banned or limited tweeting and blogging" for media during open practices. Under that scenario, fans can "sit in the stands at Colts camp and send up-to-the-minute tweets and blog posts" about training camp, but reporters cannot. Kravitz writes, "In terms of credible, accurate information, I'd rather get my camp news from a beat reporter with access than some guy who bags groceries." Kravitz asked the Colts if he could "tweet from the stands" during their training camp, but Craig Kelley, the team's VP/PR, indicated that Kravitz would be "jeopardizing ... post-practice access to coaches and players" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/5). CNBC's Rovell lists 10 teams that have banned media members from using Twitter during open practices: Falcons, Bills, Bengals, Lions, Colts, Chiefs, Saints, Patriots, Rams and Seahawks. But ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted, “Not sure if it's allowed in Foxboro, but standing on practice field as Patriots walk out for their first work of the day. And I'm tweeting" (TWITTER.com, 8/5). CNBC's Rovell writes teams banning media from tweeting at open practices is “complete and utter nonsense.” If a reporter has a “following who wants play by play of practice, why wouldn’t you as a team allow that?” (CNBC.com, 8/5).

BREAKING NEWS: In Minneapolis, Zulgad & Scoggins report the Vikings officially waived WR Aundrae Allison yesterday afternoon, after Allisons's agent Drew Rosenhaus on his Twitter feed said that the team "would waive Allison by 5 p.m. if he wasn't traded first." Zulgad & Scoggins note if Allison had "any value, Rosenhaus' tweet about Allison's impending release alerted the rest of the NFL and meant the team wasn't going to get anything for him," which "couldn't have thrilled Vikings officials" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/5).

TALE OF TWO LEAGUES: ESPN's Michael Wilbon said the NFL is "treating Twitter as the enemy," while the NBA "has its own widely popular Twitter page." ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "These are two leagues with distinctly different marketing plans. One league, the NBA, covets stars, needs stars, doesn’t care so much about teams, brings you into the arena with faces you see and players you know. The other league puts helmets on their heads, says the team is above all people, doesn’t want stars, and has many more people control. So, it’s just sort of different” (“PTI,” ESPN, 8/4). The NBA's Twitter feed has 1,102,797 followers currently, while the NFL's official feed has 771,600 (THE DAILY).

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