Dear NBA players on Twitter, read between your own baselines.
Anyone who has dealt with social networking sites such as Facebook or Myspace knows the risks, consequences, and vulnerability they take on when putting themselves out there into cyberspace for the world to see. And that’s essentially it, the WORLD sees everything you post onto your own personal online billboard of yourself. Once out there, it can never be taken back.
For the less computer savvy people who may try to prove that statement wrong, here’s an real world, recent example to help put things in perspective of how costly one post may be. Michael Beasley posts a picture of his new and very uncool tattoo with a plastic bag of something in the background. HERE IT IS. Lower right hand corner: possible marijuana bags.
(Super cool beas? Are you serious Mike? Anyway) His twitter followers see it, accuse him of doing drugs, and he says, “Oops” and deletes the picture. No one else sees it right? Wrong. It just takes one of those twitter followers to right click that picture, “save image as”, put it on their computer, and then email it to a couple friends, who email it to their friends, who put it on their facebook, myspace and twitter pages, for all of THEIR friends to see it and the virus goes all throughout the WORLD. Even though Beasley deleted it off of his site, it can still be produced and multiplied with a simple save command many internet users can do. (Photo credit: ALL OVER GOOGLE IMAGES including mashable).
For the past year, twitter has been gaining popularity among NBA players, who use twitter in a variety of ways. Kevin Love was in the news for breaking the story about his then coach, Kevin Mchale, not returning as head coach. His twitter followers knew before the team officially announced the news. Allen Iverson very recently posted that he was close to signing a deal with what many people believe to be is the Charlotte Bobcats. His agent didn’t break the story, nor did an NBA team, it came directly from Allen Iverson.
Another use for twitter is simply connecting with fans. Kevin Durant and Rudy Gay seem to just talk with their fans and answer questions. Rudy Gay has gone live on video while taking tweet questions from his followers and answering them live on his computer camera. And I’m sure you’re aware of Stephon Marbury’s more than personal, well publicized live feeds. In fact, you can watch him all the time at http://www.justin.tv/starburytv.
Probably the most popular NBA player to use Twitter is Shaq. High profile stars tweet high profile messages such as during the NBA Finals where Shaq tweeted that he wanted Kobe to win his fourth ring. After the Lakers won the final, Shaq tweeted:
As for the followers, Sports writers are using twitter as a primary source for their stories. What better source is there for a story other than a message coming from a player’s mouth/tweet (besides the player’s agent maybe). After Kevin Love’s tweet about his coach, sports sites, and radio shows were alive with the news.
NBA players are being held accountable for each tweet and for each picture. The world is seeing it. Few NBA players have private accounts, but if you request an add to see their tweets, they usually oblige. All you have to do is google “twitter” + “player’s name” (Shaq, Allen Iverson, Mark Madsen) and google will come up their twitter site for THE WORLD to see.
Read between the baselines:
The non celebrity facebook/myspace generation has been snowballed with warnings, commercials, and fail stories of how facebook and myspace lead to users being killed, raped, fired, and having their names’ ruined. We’ve seen sports players without the help of twitter get into trouble with the
law with strip clubs and guns, dog fights and DUI Manslaughters. We’ve seen sports stars candidly express their opinions on camera (a live tweet, if you will) about gays in the NBA (Tim Hardaway two years ago and Brendan Haywood more recently). How about Brandon Jennings right after he was drafted caught on tape and youtube saying a whole bunch of things about Rubio, the Knicks, and Scott Skiles. They didn’t know it was controversial and not politically correct, who’s to stop a player from tweeting something of the same nature?
Sports Stars who tweet frequently put themselves at risk of putting something out there for the WORLD to see that shouldn’t be out there. Today it starts with JR Smith using K’s instead of C’s to possibly distinguish oneself as a member of the Blood gangs opposed to Crips [side note: by the way, if a little 13 year old girl says “kute” instead of “cute” and “take kare” instead of “take care,” would she be accused of the same thing? I’m just saying…]. It starts with divulging team business before it hits the press. It starts with a plastic bag that might contain marijuana.
Where will it go from there? Think about it. If a plastic bag is seen in the background, what else could be found in the background of a room. What if a box of condoms is found in the background. White powder? Firearms? A poster of a swastika? What if a player tweets something about a teammate he wasn’t supposed to do. “In Vegas with Joe Schmoe with the team… he’s tripping out on E!” These haven’t happened yet, but could they? It’s hard to say it will never happen and with the examples above of players or ex players saying things they maybe shouldn’t live on TV or caught on youtube when they are just speaking their minds, thinking it’s innocent, who’s to say other players won’t do the same on their twitter pages?
Michael Beasley and JR Smith probably did the best thing after their controversies, which was to delete their accounts. Because every controversy is one picture, tweet, or youtube video away from being yesterday’s news. But that’s not to say that a controversy in the past is a controversy forgotten. All over the internet, Kobe is still labeled a rapist (but for the record, was never found guilty of said rape). Michael Vick will always be a dog torturer. Of course a bag of possible marijuana isn’t as big as these felonies, but in the future, we may see an escalated twitter incident. Or a twincident? Anyway…
Are NBA players perfect role models? No. No one is. We all have our vices but the media will eat a celebrity/sports star alive and that’s the price you pay for being a celebrity/sports star. It ruins endorsement contracts. What corporation wants to endorse drug users, promiscuity, racism or homophobia? Kobe lost endorsements after his rape charges. Michael Vick lost his job and had a rough time finding suitors to sign him again afterhis Dog Fighting Fiasco. Michael Phelps lost endorsements when he was photographed smoking marijuana (photo from hollywooddame).
What do they need to do? Honestly, when you’re a high profile celebrity as almost anyone in the NBA is, you need a publicist regulating what you put out. Is this a cry for fake tweet posts that are always politically (boringly) correct and taking away the voice of the NBA player? No. But maybe before a player puts out a tweet he’s not sure about, he runs it by a publicist beforehand. Maybe before posting a picture, they have some friends take a look to see if there’s anything controversial in the background. Maybe before they divulge team business, they ask their coach or a teammate if it would be okay.
Free speech is what makes America America and Twitter is a great way to use that free speech in a way that lets fans connect with their idols in a way no other sports star was able to do in previous years. When was the last time you could directly tweet Ron Artest (or let alone CALL HIM) and have him answer a question or simply say, “what’s up?” Two years ago there was a barrier between the fans and players. And the only time to talk to them was if you saw them driving by on the street in your hometown. Now fans from all across the world can say whatever they want to Dwight Howard or Chris Bosh. But that free speech comes with a cost. No they won't go to jail for what they tweet, but they can embarass themselves and put their jobs and professional relationships at risk. For example, although it’s legal to say, “I like drugs,” it won’t go over well the media, endorsers, and the team you play for.
Does RBTB care that Beasley may be doing drugs? Absolutely not. RBTB only reads between the baselines of what goes on in the NBA, we judge the players strictly by what they do: their play on the court (and their contract situations). But these players have to know who else is watching what they do. Answer, again, the WORLD. What they do in their private time is their own business. So NBA players, keep your own business where it’s supposed to be: in privacy. Think before you post. It’s easier for John Smith who works at Albertsons to tweet “Smoking weed” than it is for Shaq to tweet the same message (No, Shaq did not actually post “smoking weed”). NBA players-- nay, all celebrities are being watched by the media 24/7 for slipups and twitter gives said media (TMZ and the like) a window to the private lives of those celebrities, all from their computers, iphones and blackberrys, one tweet at a time.
Those are the facts. And that's one way to read between the [base]lines.