We reported yesterday that the National Football League is reviewing its social media policy with regards to players Tweeting from the sidelines of games. But now the ban on social media has expanded from the locker room to the press box and even the stands, as paranoid organizations don’t want their training camp secrets becoming fodder for the Twittersphere.
At the Vanguard of the anti-social movement, the Miami Dolphins organization is prohibiting fans and media that attend the team’s public training camp sessions from blogging, tweeting, or texting during team drills. At least six other teams are following their lead, fearing something like #TO’s Ankle could become a trending topic on Twitter.
The Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, and New England Patriots have also cracked down on social media during team workouts. The Broncos have banned cell phones and laptops during workouts to stem tweeting and texting by fans and media. As a testament to the level of paranoia in the NFL, the Colts went as far as banning spiral bound reporter’s notebooks briefly before later backpedaling on the rule.
The NFL has encouraged teams to allow players to Tweet from the sidelines during camp, but have passed down no rules concerning media and fans at training camp. The league has embraced social media as a way for players to connect with fans; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tweeted from the NFL draft, and the league’s Twitter account is approaching 800,000 followers. Still, keeping players focused in games is important to the league, and a ban on players using social media like Twitter during games is likely in the future. Besides, with video capability coming to more and more smartphones, handheld devices on the sideline could pose a cheating risk (remember the infamous Patriots/Jets camcorder incident?)
Other organizations have embraced new media rather than trying to keep it in a box. Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio has been known to text reporters, while the Philadelphia Eagles offer an air-conditioned trailer at their training camp for bloggers. Others, like the Dallas Cowboys, remain ambivalent toward social media, choosing to roll with the technological punches, and the rules that govern them, as they come. “When cell phones came in,” Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips told the AP, “one team had a player on the sideline during a preseason game who was on a cell phone. So you have to come up with rules when these new technologies come out.”
The Cowboys have not forbidden players from tweeting. Still, some teams are untrustworthy of both their own abilities to harness social media and of the social media environment itself, where rumors can run violently amok. But it seems they’re more worried about information leaking from their own locker rooms than from fans or media watching a team practice. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano admitted to the AP he’s not very knowledgeable about social media, but it’s not his lack of savvy he’s worried about as much as that of his players. “Something they think is innocent can really hurt an individual, can really hurt team chemistry, and maybe can lead to somewhere down the road a loss of a game,” Sparano told the AP. “I believe that. I’m one of those guys that will try to take that variable out of the way if you can.”
“But,” Sparano added, “it doesn’t look to me like something that can completely be controlled.”