Tweet costs NFL player $25,000

Terrell Owens posted a tweet on Sunday, Oct. 10, before the Cincinnati and Tampa Bay game, which violated the NFL’s social media policy that prohibits posts 90 minutes before kickoff and after the game until the completion of traditional media interviews. He was subsequently fined $25,000.

The NFL implemented their social media plan a little over a year ago. According to a statement from the league in a story by the Associated Press, “The growth of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook has created important new ways for the NFL and clubs to communicate and connect with fans. The NFL … will continue to emphasize innovative and appropriate use of these new forms of communication.”

But it seems they will be giving priority to traditional news outlets that cover their games. It looks like the NFL is hoping this incentive will reflect favorably on the story the media tell about their sporting events. By giving professional journalists the edge in their reporting, the NFL is ensuring that it still garners the traditional, national press coverage it is used to. Their strategy is understandable; however, I don’t see their social media policy lasting much longer. It is hard to control the social media sphere like this because the NFL can’t watch everyone on every social networking site. From blogs to Twitter to Facebook, content can be kept private if a user chooses. According to the NFL’s social media policy, any individual player or anyone representing the player must follow the social media guidelines.

What the NFL fails to see is that tweets from players, offering to interact with their audience during a game, would spur more people to attend than simply reading or watching a story via traditional national media. If audiences attended games, knowing there’s going to be a chance to meet their favorite player or win items from their favorite team, they would be more likely to go and right now, the best way to reach that audience is via Twitter and Facebook. Would you be more likely to go to a game if you saw an offer from your favorite player online?

Not that the potential fine has stopped some athletes from using these channels before games. According to Terrell Owens, it was worth the $25,000 to make a kid happy.

It will be interesting to see what the NFL will do with that $25,000 they took. Do you think they’ll donate it to charity? If they have a smart PR staff, they will.

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6 Responses to Tweet costs NFL player $25,000

  1. jweishar says:

    I think it is pointless to try to control social media in the NFL as well. Although, I can see why they would have guidelines on a time frame that is acceptable to post, just because they should be focused on the game they are about to play instead of Twitter. T.O.’s tweet could have been posted earlier in the day to avoid the fine and all of the backlash while still making a fan happy. I agree that if the PR staff is smart, they will donate it to a charity. If they don’t I think it will make the NFL look greedy.

  2. bmalex says:

    I hadn’t heard of this story yet, but I think it says a lot about the current state of social media in our culture. Many people support social media, but maybe with some exceptions. I would guess the NFL PR team probably quickly put these guidelines into place in a reactionary state of mind because they needed to have some type of rules for social media.

    I actually think the NFL rules make sense the way they are right now. As I’m watching NFL football right now, I couldn’t figure out the 90-minutes before game rule. But then it dawned on me that it does make sense that the NFL wants players to focus and be a team before the game, and tweeting is not important. This is like an airline saying that pilots can’t be tweeting while they’re taxiing an airplane down the runway for take-off. Rather, the pilot should be focusing on flying the plane in a few minutes.

    I congratulate the NFL for trying to put some sense into social media.

  3. jhickam says:

    You’re right, he definitely could have posted it earlier. In an article I found it said he indended to but forgot and ended up posting it late as he was leaving. Also, just as an update, I guess the NFL reportedly reduced the fine to $5000 according to this article which was written after my blog post (

  4. slarsonm says:

    The NFL is sometimes called the No Fun League, and that nickname was mentioned when the NFL first implemented its social media policy (

    I think the point of the rule isn’t to provide the traditional media with the first soundbites, but to have players give full concentration to the game they are about to play. Granted, I don’t think it really makes a difference whether they tweet 90 minutes or five minutes before. If anything, it makes the game more interesting.

    This policy reminds me of the “excessive celebration” policy for players. They are flagged and penalized for whatever the ref deems “excessive celebration.” Last week, the Cowboys were charged with a penalty after lineman Marc Colombo chest bumped tight end Jason Witten after he scored, and proceeded to fall over in the end zone. Just this Sunday, also for the Cowboys, Miles Austin leapfrogged a teammate after a touchdown and was also flagged for excessive celebration. I don’t think there should be penalties for excessive celebration, unless it’s unsportsmanlike conduct. Leap frogs, end zone dancing, and huge guys tripping in the end zone just makes things more fun.

    T.O is infamous for his often outrageous behavior, on and off the field, but also for his popularity with his fans. There is probably no other player (aside from teammate Chad Ochocinco) who is as entertaining as T.O. Banning social media is just another action of the No Fun League trying to make a sport — that is not just a game but an entertainment event — a little less entertaining.

    • ralee3 says:

      I completely agree that the NFL’s primary reason for the social media rule is to make sure their players are focused on the game, and I don’t think it’s a bad idea either!

      … And hasn’t anyone told Terrel about socialoomph?

      Yes, it’s nice for fans to see that T.O. is tweeting, but I don’t think they would be opposed to a little Twitter break while he plays a game for the NFL either.

  5. rlbarber says:

    I don’t necessarily agree with you when you said that the social media policy gives priority to traditional media outlets. I think that the league feels a need to maintain some control of their players and the use of social media. There have already been some problems concerning social media and players (I believe the Cardinals’ Darnell Dockett was involved in at least one incidence) where the league had to take action.

    I think that there has to be some sort of policy to keep the players “in the game” as well. I know the Diamondbacks’ new manager Kirk Gibson implemented a clubhouse media policy as well, requiring players to store their iPads, iPhones and other devices 90 minutes before game time. It helps get the players in the right frame of mind before a game. And to be totally honest, with the amount of money that teams are paying their players, I think they have the right to impose policies like these to maintain control.

    I will say, however, that I was really surprised at what T.O. tweeted. I figured it would be something demeaning or rude (considering his usual antics) but it wasn’t. That being said, rules are rules and the league has to stick to their guns with a policy like that.

    Good post!

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