Most of us have already been introduced to the latest Internet sensation (aka fad), twittering! A lot of us are signed up to twitter.com and have been 'tweeting' for months already. However, recently twitter has begun getting a very-bad image in the media and a lot of sports franchises have already / probably will soon ban players and athletes from using the texting service. How did we go from 'newest Internet must-do thing' to disallowed and banned service in one short summer?
For those of us that now 'twitter and tweet' regularly, along with related things such as posting our pictures to the Internet, it's easy to think, "man, how could I get along without this thing before?" Twitter was originally set up around the concept of being a quick, easy way to answer the question of "what are you doing right now?" but, as most Internet stuff does, has grown and expanded into doing so much more. The biggest appeal to twitter however seems to be the ease to use it while on the go, many people twitter exclusively from their portable devices from wherever they are in the world. Twitter users can now keep in touch with what is happening in the world wherever they are and whatever they are doing.
So, just how is it that twitter becoming a service that is getting so many athletes in trouble, for various reasons, lately? A lot of players don't seem to realize that amongst the tens or thousands of followers they have, not all are their friends or family. An athlete might be unguarded when someone is taking a picture, like Michael Phelps infamous bong pic, or Derek Rose's ill-advised pose showing gang signs. Possibly an athlete says something to a fan and doesn't realize they are being taped, such as Kobe Bryant bad-mouthing Andrew Bynum, captured by a cell-phone cam.
When an athlete tweets a greeting for instance that includes words that they wouldn't use when talking to a group of children, let alone a group of locker-room reporters, well that is a problem. One doesn't need to imagine the public relations hit an athlete would take if he were to use the n-word or other similar type of word when talking to a reporter for instance, but yet unfortunately it is common to see many athletes tweet something that is offensive. Indiana Pacer Marquis Daniels for instance regularly tweets or re-tweets bad language, including the n-word. It is quite common to see player tweets that read "what up my homie, catch you lata n***", obviously not realizing that they have just permanently recorded their quote.
For every positive thing we've seen on twitter, such as Steve Nash announcing his re-signing with the Suns, Shaq challenging other athletes to compete on his new reality show and the Chris Bosh vs Charlie Villanueva first to 50k followers bet we've witnessed an athlete get into twitter-trouble, such as Charlie Villanueva twittering during halftime of a Milwaukee Bucks game, and Chad Ochocinco threatening to twitter during NFL games.
Outside of pushing- boundaries of team limits over players and control, one of the most interesting things about twitter is the ability to see how athletes and celebrities talk to each other, it gives us a new way to glimpse into their world that the average fan otherwise wouldn't have. One particular exchange just last night between NBA players Baron Davis and Chris Paul went like this:
Chris: @Baron_Davis. Yo yo what up!
Baron: @Oneandonlycp3 how u like hong kong?
Chris: @Baron_Davis yo that's CRAZY we said that at the same time...man I loved it over here, wish I couldve stayed in Hong Kong longer...u good??
Baron: @Oneandonlycp3 watitdo bro! I'm at gurg camp in vegas trying to keep up with these rookies lol.
Chris: @Baron_Davis: yea til the season start nu go at they head!!! lol
These type of exchanges happen numerous times daily. Some athletes though convey other types of messages, such as Denver Nugget player J.R. Smith recently twittering using known gang-code used by the Bloods street gang, specifically by changing the letter 'c' in words to the letter 'k', such as his tweet saying that "I just Kame home. ... I kouldnt have done it with out yall" soon after his release from jail, amongst other tweets of the type. He recently tweeted "watch what you say on here it gets me in a lot of trouble!" and as of yesterday has removed his twitter account.
Other athletes and sports celebrities use twitter to send out pictures they have taken of themselves and teammates in some interesting places, like Cincinnati Bengals player Chad Ochocinco taking pictures from within team meetings, locker room, and back rooms of the Bengals practice facilities. Numerous other athletes have posted pictures of themselves while on vacation, posing with other celebrities, at public events, from their homes, with their wives/girlfriends, etc.
Athletes have also begun to take twittering to the new-level of live web-cam, recent ones including Stephon Marbury, Chad Johnson, J.R. Smith, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Ron Artest amongst others. Most athletes are pretty quick to realize that everything they are saying is being transmitted, and recorded, by all those watching their 'live streams'. However, whatever filters in their brains that they may have against saying something that could end up harming them seems to wear off the longer they videocast through their web-cams.
Stephon Marbury for instance recently went live for 24-hours in a row, uncensored and basically showing us every facet of his personality, good and bad, in the process. Recent web-cam antics for Marbury include eating vaseline on camera to sooth a sore throat, breaking down and crying to song he was playing, getting into an car-accident while being driven live on camera (and fleeing the scene of the crime while spouting 'it's the devil doing that!') and the like. If Stephon doesn't think that this might not negatively effect his chances to sign on with another NBA team, well he really is off his rocker then.
It's not only athletes out of the spotlight doing questionable things though, some current stars dangerously straddle the line between what is acceptable and not. Chad Ochocinco about a week ago has started almost nightly web-casts of 'THE OCHO CINCO SHOW'. Some of the recent things he has talked about on camera is his choice of what race the women he dates are, discussing the various fines he has collected and broadcasting live conversations including one with rapper Lil Wayne about tattoo's. One has got to think that this is the reason behind that various NFL teams are now banning their players from video chatting and twittering.
Ron Artest has been filming videos of himself, 'vlogging', for over a year and he almost got himself into trouble last month during his free-agency period by posting various videos of himself talking about where he might sign. One of those videos featured driving and him talking to his agent for about 15 minutes, about possibly re-signing with the Rockets, the Lakers being interested in him, being informed that LeBron would like him on the Cav's and having him explain that he has a special connection with James because his cousin served jail time with LeBron's 'pop' (most likely his real father who served jail time). It is incredibly interesting to watch for an outsider and get a glimpse into an athlete-agent relationship, but Artest posted the video without his agent David Bauman's knowledge (or approval) and in it the agent does mention other clients. A Sports Illustrated article describes Bauman's reaction when told of the video as causing his "heart to stop when he first heard about it, as he frantically tried to recall if he had said anything that would embarrass him or the teams he had discussed." This video very easily could have gotten Artest into trouble. Recent Artest 'vlog' entries include footage of a scantily-clad chinese rapper set to a rap song she sings with Artest, Artest describing his infamous 2004 fight at The Palace in Detroit, and enjoying a 'victory cigar' after signing with the Lakers. You gotta wonder that Laker management is probably quietly wishing Ron tone-down his videos, at some point in the future it's forseeable that they will have to sit Ron down and tell him as much.
As a sports-fan and someone who has been watching much of the curiously fascinating glimpses that athletes and celebrities, along with everyday people, give us into their lives, I will miss the day that twittering and streaming live videos will be banned by athletes from their respective teams. I can foresee that day coming, and very quickly. When the technology is at hand like it is now where an athlete can transmit whatever it is that they are feeling at the time, right at that moment, or put themselves in front of the camera for hours at a time, well we all let our antenna's and filters come down every so often. Even someone as guarded as Shaquille O'Neal, perhaps the most media-savvy athlete there is, can get caught up in a moment. When he recently tweeted to his 1,866,662 followers about a plane crash he witnessed, this just about perfectly sums up the whole athletic twitter debate. Shaq wrote "Holy s***, I'm at the santa monica airport I just saw a lil plane crash, and the guy walk away, dam dam glad he's ok s***, excuse my words" His post was interesting, but his words were poorly chosen. One can excuse this type of language, but one can't erase the much-worse 'athlete-talk' we have seen this summer, and the videos that somewhere will come back to haunt many of those foolish enough to do or say the wrong things and have them immortalized by transmitting them to legions of fans and followers.