Today's post is from S. Craig Watkins, author of The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future. Watkins writes about youth, media, technology, and society. He is an Associate Professor of Radio-TV-Film at the University of Texas at Austin. This post originally appeared at the Young and the Digital blog.
Recently I was watching ESPN's Sportcenter Live when producers of the show interrupted the program with a breaking news report. Minutes earlier, Tiger Woods, the world's most famous athlete, used his website to post a public apology to his wife and kids and combat the rumors that were rapidly spreading about his private life. With the stroke of a keyboard Tiger used his website to, at least momentarily, reframe the press coverage about his recent troubles.
ESPN was not the only news outlet that immediately reported on the statement. Several other major news media organizations ran front page stories on their websites, too. What really caught my eye was the fact that each of the stories in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times used one source for their initial reporting-- Tiger Woods.
After observing how Team Tiger was able to spin the news reporting I began to think about how social media is transforming the culture of sports. A few weeks ago I had an interesting conversation with Eddie Matz, senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Eddie was writing a piece on professional athletes' use of social media platforms like Twitter.
Shortly before my chat with Eddie former Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson found himself in serious trouble and, eventually (albeit briefly), out of a job after he used a gay slur in a Twitter post. The firestorm that confronted Johnson was yet another reminder of how the sportsworld, like virtually every other institution in America, has been forced to grapple with the spread of social media. As a generation of athletes accustomed to social media and the "always on" norms of digital media culture enter pro sports the executives of billion dollars sports franchises have been forced to upgrade their knowledge about social media. In many NFL training camps this summer several teams instituted a no-social media policy out of fear that team secrets, strategy, and practices could be openly shared. In September the NFL established a formal policy regarding the use social media by players.
Eddie asked me what I thought about the use of social media by pro athletes. We talked about several things but here are six ways in which social media is changing the business and culture of professional sports.