NFL social media ban shortsighted

The NFL's recent restrictions on social media are not only unenforceable but also shortsighted.

The NFL's recent restrictions on social media are not only unenforceable but also shortsighted. Its new guidelines prohibit social media use 90 minutes before the game and until media obligations are finished after the game for all players, coaches, football operations personnel, and anyone representing a player on a social media site. Media are also prohibited from releasing play-by-play via Twitter or other social sites.

Arguably, the NFL wants to protect its “content” – to control where and how it's consumed, as well as avoid any players leaking competitive information. It's true that players should be concentrating on the game if they're playing, and no one wants one athlete tweeting about a teammate's sore shoulder or Facebooking a new play the team is trying out. But the NFL is missing the whole point of social media. It is social -- you're not supposed to control it, you participate in it. The ban also misses out from leveraging the excitement of those who are most likely to be their best brand ambassadors because of their investment in the sport: its employees.

Clearly the NFL and other leagues like at the US Open, the SEC, etc. are concerned about licensing issues, and making sure they're being paid for their “content.” But it's unlikely that a true sports fan is going to follow a tweeted play-by-play rather than tune in to the actual game. What's more likely to happen is someone not watching the game will see a Facebook status or a tweet about a terrific play or a close score, and they'll think, “Wow, I better watch that game,” or “Damn, this is going to be a good season, I better tune in next time.”

In short, the ban effectively silences PR pros, players, and media, during the very time period when the league has the best opportunity to attract more fans, more eyeballs for those lucrative media contracts and sponsorships, and build on existing fans' enthusiasm: during the game.

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