Don't be a "Twit:" La Russa and Other Twitter Nonsense

Tinea PayneContributor IJune 8, 2009

31 May 1998:  Manager Tony La Russa #10 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on during a game against the San Diego Padres at the Qual Comm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Padres defeated the Cardinals 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw  /Allsport

Wouldn't it be great to sue a social-networking site for a status update that never was?

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is.

Apparently the baseball manager is suing Twitter, the massive, social-networking giant, according to a Friday, June 5, Associated Press article

According to an article on, the baseball manager "is suing for trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and misappropriation of name and likeness."

The manager claims an "unauthorized page" was created, posting status updates, or "tweets", giving the impression that the "tweets" came from La Russa, according to the article.

Here is an excerpt:

"The lawsuit claims that someone created a false account under La Russa's name and posted updates, known as "tweets," that gave the false impression that the comments came from La Russa. The suit said the comments were "derogatory and demeaning" and damaged La Russa's trademark rights."

"The account bearing La Russa's name is no longer active. The lawsuit includes a screen shot of three tweets. One posted on April 19 said: "Lost 2 out of 3, but we made it out of Chicago without one drunk driving incident or dead pitcher.'"

This excerpt also raised my eyebrows:

"The lawsuit includes a screenshot of tweets with the heading 'Hey there! Tony La Russa is using Twitter,' with a picture of the manager. The same page includes an aside that reads, 'Bio Parodies are fun for everyone.'"

I wonder if La Russa just so happened to stumble across himself, which led to him find out what "he" said. It's no fun to have an impostor, especially ones that make "derogatory and demeaning" comments.

Other Athletic "Twits"

Although La Russa's situation isn't the greatest of news, this identity theft of sorts is actually very likely to happen to anyone. The baseball manager isn't the only one with a "pretend" account.

It seems there are other "faux" accounts of professional athletes (and the real accounts, which are actually worth checking out if pre-game and post-game coverage just isn't enough).

Twitter's search engine reveals plenty of names like, "Not So-and-So", in reference to names of professional athletes (I even searched "Not So-and-So" to ensure no such account existed).

Even Shaquille O'Neal's Twitter name, THE_REAL_SHAQ, insinuates the star basketball player's account is actually him, among the various "pseudo-Shaq" screen names tagged with Shaq photos that can be found in the Twitter search engine.

It's like Shaq comes in many varieties.

But nevertheless, a real Twitter account guards Shaq's reputation from those pesky wanna-bes, making his "tweets" authentic.

Like Lance Armstrong's.

Recently, the seven-time Tour de France winner announced the birth of his son, Max, in a "tweet". The seven-pound, five-ounce, barely a week-old newborn also "tweets" straight out of the womb (with the help of Daddy, of course).

Looks like Max is "tweeting" before he learns to speak. How adorable.

Twitter's growth weighs on media

But since when did Twitter ever gain such credibility and status? It's free to use and I'm sure even a toddler (with basic expertise in ABC's) could register, if it weren't for the 13-year-old age stipulation.

It's hard for me to idealize how social-networking sites have become such a reputable source of information on individuals, especially celebrities and athletes. Even various media outlets are using Twitter as a news platform. ESPN may as well have its own.

Wait. That has actually become a reality.

Now sports enthusiasts who are too busy "tweeting" can now get their sports news by following ESPN on Twitter. How convenient. And it looks like they're getting smart, too.

ESPN360 has some sort of disclaimer in its Twitter bio, stating, "LEGAL NOTICE: If you send us a tweet, you consent to letting ESPN use and showcase it in any media, possibly even on television." Looks like anything you "tweet" can and will be used against you in the name of social-networking media law. 

It looks like Twitter weighs more on the media industry than ever before.

Because it is media.

From a student journalist's standpoint, I was initially opposed to the idea of a social-networking site primarily based upon status messages as I thought it was an utter waste of time. 

Now that I've opened my own account, I'm suffering from foot-in-mouth syndrome as it's actually really cool. But that's besides the point.

Imagine the ease of being a sports journalist on Twitter, being able to instantaneously syndicate a final score to the world with a simple text message to Twitter (or, if you're upgraded, using the Twitter app on the iPhone). Talk about broadening one's audience.

Twitter is changing everything.

But nevertheless, aside from the perks of being able to get one's ESPN news at ease or the latest news on what Max Armstrong's parents fed him, social-networking impostors are out there. No one is safe, not even famous athletic figures.

And though reaching out to fans from the comfort of one's locker room may seem like a good idea, "tweeting" has its' costs.

And that can be one hefty cost if La Russa wins his lawsuit. 

Which calls to question how Twitter will come out in this lawsuit, being the free service claims it spends more than it earns.