By Michele Weisman Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen may need a lot more than 140 characters to explain what’s gone wrong with his baseball team during the opening month of the season. Guillen was suspended for two games and fined for his actions—including tweeting—during Wednesday’s loss to the New York Yankees.
Guillen’s 130,000 plus followers may have been enlightened by his tweets, but Major Leauge Baseball (MLB) was not. Originally fined $50,000, MLB decided to reduce the fine to $20,000. Shortly after being ejected from game, Guillen turned to Twitter to tweet his frustration.
This whole story begs the question-- what exactly is MLB’s social media policy? MLB does not make such internal employment policies public. However, according to MLB rules and ESPN.com, all social media messages must cease 30 minutes prior to the first pitch; they can resume after the game at each individual club’s discretion.
Why should MLB or any other organization create a social media policy? Here’s why—let’s say you are in the food business. What if one of your employees was doing gross things to food and posting it on YouTube? Or, let’s say you are operating an airline. What if one of your customers created three music videos about how his guitar was broken by baggage handlers and that the airline offered no compensation? What about the pharmaceutical industry? What if one of your products is recalled? Ultimately, your company’s reputation is at stake. The potential damage to the brand can spread online like wildfire.
Twitter and Facebook have reshaped how athletes, coaches, managers, and virtually all businesses, communicate with their consumers. Twitter is much more like a gossipy public water cooler that leaves a written electronic trail behind. Athletes need to remember that by connecting and engaging with fans through social media, they can potentially leverage huge fan bases and create sponsorship and partnership opportunities. At the same time, they can embarrass umpires, referees, fans and challenge the integrity of the game. Guillen is now using his Twitter account as an outlet to help people in need by asking his followers to donate to Chicago White Sox Charities.
As an ironic side note to this article, the crowd at last night’s ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game between the Mets and the Phillies began chanting USA! USA! The players had no idea that US Special Forces had killed Osama Bin Laden because of the Social Media Blackout.
As a sports fan, what do you think about in game tweeting by players and managers? Does it inform fans or does it distract their focus from the game? Share in the comments!