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Social media and the NFL

Players walk fine line between branding and revealing too much. Jack Bechta

Print This May 04, 2010, 02:51 PM EST

Just about every big name in pro football has an active Twitter account – Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, Commissioner Roger Goodell, Chad Ochocinco, Drew Brees, agent Drew Rosenhaus and others. I would estimate that many players also have Facebook accounts or their own personal websites. Tim Tebow has a Twitter account and website for his foundation.

As an agent, I’ve been bombarded lately with solicitations from companies wanting to build websites for my clients and manage their social media. More and more players are tip-toeing into the social media sphere trying to build their brands and images independent from their teams, agencies and the players’ union, which has its own marketing arm.

Even though more pro athletes are tweeting and sharing their every move via the electronic highway, it comes with risk. For one thing, coaches and GMs hate it. Although Carroll learned and mastered the ability to have fun, be social and run a winning college program, I’m not so sure how it will translate to the NFL stage. There are 31 other head coaches who don’t get it or care to get it (I’m unaware of any other coaches who tweet). Can you imagine how upset Patriots coach Bill Belichick might be if one of his players tweets that he’s hurt but is going to play anyway? Or the tongue lashing Steelers coach Tomlin would give one of his players who gave the upcoming opponent some bulletin-board material? I guarantee you that Dolphins president Bill Parcells would cut a player or fire a coach who said too much about his team’s private business.

All of my rookie clients who just returned from their first minicamp were briefed on what they should and shouldn’t say to the media. One team even told its players that they should “think twice” before tweeting or talking about their experiences in minicamp. Twitter, Facebook and other outlets makes coaches and GMs a little nervous. I know of one GM and ownernship group who have grown so irritated and tired of their top players’ social efforts that they decided to clean house of those individuals. The team has already recently parted ways with three players and has its sights set on several more it would like to see go. The brass simply feels that their players’ focus should be 100 percent on winning and not be distracted on building their own brand.

From an agent’s perspective, I advise my young clients to keep a low profile initially until they’ve proven their value in the league. I’m a big believer in personal exposure, but it has to come in a form that’s beneficial to the fan base first. Give to the fans and they’ll give back to you.

As my clients get older and more established, I encourage them to start building their brand by leveraging their NFL status so it will help them segue into another career such as broadcasting. One player, not my client, who has done a great job of this is Redskins tight end Chris Cooley with chriscooley47.com. Although Chris may ruffle the feathers of the ‘Skins front office once in a while, his content is a reveal to fans and for the fans, so he’s forever embraced and appreciated by them.

There’s no doubt that social media is here to stay, but it’s just a matter of time before the NFL looks to muzzle it once a player has crossed the line and gone too far.

Follow me on Twitter: @jackbechta

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