Twitter in the NFLIn a day and age when just about anything and everything regarding our favorite celebrities and professional athletes is accessible with a click of the mouse, it’s no wonder Twitter is at the center of all the buzz. The easy to use microblogging site has seen a huge increase in “verified” professional athlete accounts in the past year. The site categorizes the athletes using twitter by sport and team with a direct feed to each players’ tweets. We now know when they wake up, what video games they are “dominating” and how much they spent on their latest Bentley, or two. With this running commentary on the sporting world at everyone’s finger tips, of course we would see some controversy when it comes to the innate competition that these athletes seem to eat, sleep and tweet.

Back in September, David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays was ridiculed for speaking out on Twitter about the Ray’s lack of fan support. “Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands… embarrassing” Fans and critics alike bashed Price on his “rude” statement, who later apologized writing “If I offended anyone I apologize I did not think it was gonna turn into this…” Price was right — who knew that one statement could cause such an adverse reaction. This was when the social media tool really caught my attention in a different light.

Fast forward to this past week’s NFL playoff “trash taking” fiasco. The Patriots and Jets went back and forth for days with “clever” instigations in press conferences and bold statements on twitter. It is the first time we, as spectators, have a more than direct insight into the thoughts, feelings and actions of these athletes on a minute to minute basis. Players were accused of abusing their 5th amendment rights in press conferences and on twitter. What could have once been seen as “private” personal thoughts in 180 characters or less, are now public statements permanently stamped into the the archives of Twitter.

Twitter has been seen as a distraction for many athletes. The NFL has been known to fine players for using electronics near game time out of fear of cheating. NFL player Chad Ochocinco was fined $25,000 for tweeting too close to the start and finish of a game. Shaquille O’Neil even tweeted during halftime while playing for the Suns… thankfully the Suns won that game. Boise State’s head football coach Chris Peterson banned his team from using Twitter during their latest season. “It’s just a distraction that we don’t really need to have right now. There’s plenty of time in their lifetime for Twitter” Peterson said. Much of Peterson’s concern revolved around his team and their relationship with the press. Many times collegiate coaches keep certain players, often freshman, from talking to the media all year. Twitter has blurred the lines of public statements into a more casual “from-the-couch” press conference.

Coaches, such as Jet’s coach Rex Ryan, have come into press conferences unaware of the comments “tweeted” minutes before by his players and are already on-deck questions from reporters. Coaches are also concerned with spending weeks and months working on formations and plays just to have players reveal these intentions in their comments on Twitter. Even though Twitter has not lead to any consequences like that of the fine for a helmet-to-helmet hit, it still unknown how the site will effect the future of professional sports, on and off the field. I mean let’s face it, we all saw how Wes Welker’s comments in a press conference probably cost New England the Super Bowl.