Tag Archives: Twitter

Mirroring Social Evolution

Donald Sterling ClippedAs I sit and think about sports today, I think about the hot topics splattering headlines in the recent weeks and months. It’s not about money or arrests or even cheating. Instead, we’re reading and discussing unacceptable bigotry in major league sports – Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments and Michael Sam becoming the first openly gay player in the NFL. While some may not agree, I think this is pretty incredible. An industry previously thought of as traditional, and keen to an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, has now become a reflection of real social change.

A lifetime ban for Donald and jerseys flying off the shelves for Sam (despite his lack of assigned number) have both been applauded by the general public, as well as the players and organizations they support.

Furthermore, when Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones tweeted, “Horrible” shortly following the St. Louis Rams selection of Sam in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft, he was bombarded with disapproving criticism. His employer even issued a statement assuring the public that he would be addressed appropriately. An admirable effort from the team that was previously at the center of a bulling scandal – bringing national scrutiny to locker room culture in the NFL.

Circling back to the outrageous babbling of Donald Sterling, a valid question was raised by his wife, Shelly Sterling, in an interview with Barbara Walters: “I’m wondering if a wife of one of the owners, and there’s 30 owners, did something like that, said those racial slurs, would they oust the husband? Or would they leave the husband in?” An interesting and noteworthy perspective, but perhaps not a legitimate claim. We’ll have to wait (likely years) to see her fate while she contemplates the fate of her marriage. Donald, on the other hand, issued an apology today via a taped CNN interview with Anderson Cooper begging to be allowed this one mistake in his 35 years of ownership. Somehow I doubt that this is his one and only mistake during that time…but I could be wrong…

All in all, once the standard is now the unacceptable. While state and federal laws in the past few years (and 50 years) have helped spearhead equal rights movements worldwide, it was once projected that men’s professional sports were far from following suit. With both surprise and gratitude, I look to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Michael Sam and the St. Louis Rams (and their PR teams, of course) for their courage and commitment to social change in sports. It may be too early to say that we are entering a new world of sports, but this is undoubtably a conscious effort by industry leaders to shift perception and mirror societal evolution.

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Jason Collins: “The Announcement Should be Mine to Make, Not TMZ’s”

Today, history was made. Jason Collins dominated headlines and raked in Twitter followers by becoming the first openly gay active athlete. He opened up to the world this morning as Sports Illustrated‘s May 6 issue hit newsstands, bearing his fearless smile on the cover.

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“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” Collins’ confessional byline begins, “I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

This is a huge moment in sports, politics and American culture. In his debut piece, the seven-foot center and free agent notes that while he’s been struggling with the decision for nearly two years, it was the recent Boston Marathon bombing that made him realize that he shouldn’t wait for the circumstances to be perfect.

My initial reaction to the news was an overwhelming sense of joy. I celebrate Collins’ courage to be himself in a situation that doesn’t make it easy. People face this dilemma every day, and the struggles that Collins experienced (and will likely continue to experience) every day, but not everyone is a public figure. One of my favorite lines Collins wrote reads, “The announcement should be mine to make, not TMZ’s.”

In public relations, so much of what we do is finding ways to control the message. Making sure that the right audience sees and hears the right message. I know it may sound terrible, but when I saw a free agent announce his sexual orientation in an exclusive cover of Sports Illustrated, I thought…this is strategic PR. But Collins’ article put my accusations to rest. He is so unmistakably honest. It is easy to feel compassionate towards someone who bares everything, knowing that by doing so, he is welcoming criticism. By the end, I had forgotten all the motives I thought lay behind the swarm of publicity and felt closer to a man I never even considered cheering for.

…and that’s the beauty of PR and branding – if it’s good, you think the message was your own idea!

With that, I’ll leave you with an insightful and supportive tweet from the one and only Fortune Felmster, comedian best known for her regular appearances on Chelsea Lately:

FortuneTweetforCollins

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Taking Back the Past

On Monday, Nike announced it has pulled its “Boston Massacre” shirts in light of the recent Boston bombings. The shirts were originally designed to commemorate the Yankees’ series sweeps of the Red Sox in 1978 and 2006, which ended playoff hopes on both occasions. Nike was forced to make a statement after David Letterman Producer Eric Stangel’s tweet of a photo of the shirt in stores, calling out the insensitivity, went viral.

Eric Stangel Tweet

And this isn’t the first time this has happened…this year. In February, Nike discontinued the campaign promoting sponsored paralympian Oscar Pistorius that revolved around the saying, “I am the bullet in the chamber” after the athlete was charged with fatally shooting his girlfriend.

While the slogans seem unfortunate in hindsight, at the time of creation they probably seemed like pure genius. What’s done is done, and Nike not only responded in the right way, by absorbing all loses and removing messaging that could be misinterpreted, the athletic company also resolved the issue in a timely and respectful way.

Excluding the perpetrators themselves, no one could have predicted either tragedy. It’s important for brands to be aware of all interpretations of their messages no matter when the message what created, just as it is important for consumers to be understanding of true intentions.

As a graduate of the University of Nike, I must disclose that I have been, and forever will be, a Nike fan. Nike’s recent display of compassion and sensitivity only reinforces my love for the brand.

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Hoodies for justice

Today, Huffington Post Sports reported Dwayne Wade and LeBron James posted pictures to Facebook and/or Twitter showing them with a hooded sweatshirt pulled over their heads. LeBron’s picture showed Miami Heat teammates participating in the act of protest. Both posts were in response to the death of a local teenager shot and killed by a neighborhood crime-watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla. late February. Shooter George Zimmerman said he shot the unarmed  African American, Trayvon Martin, out of self-defense and has not been arrested.

I am not a big Heat fan…AT ALL, but was struck by this team’s efforts to use their respective platforms to bring awareness to the injustice of Martin’s death. In the NBA, players are bought and sold constantly. Players rarely end up in the community they grew up, nor do they stay for long periods of time. Thus, players don’t often have deep connections to the communities they play in. This is natural. I don’t know if this was prompted by the Miami Heat executives, but I like it regardless. Wade, James and their teammates are using their massive social media reach to bring awareness to an injustice in their community, while also showing the Florida community that they care about what’s going on there. This is community relations at its finest. This is just good PR.

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How to be a ‘man of the people’

Today, ESPN posted a video of Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard talking about interacting with fans via Twitter and his future in the NBA. I’m not a huge Dwight Howard fan, but he’s definitely doing something right.

Watching this video reminded me of a post I wrote a while back titled “How not to tweet…for athletes.” It takes more than being an incredible athlete to get lots of followers. Shaq is the most followed athlete on Twitter for a reason; he’s entertaining.

Contrary to what many believe, Twitter is not about spitting out whatever you’re thinking every second of every day. It’s a quick fast way to network and create and foster a larger community. It is a way to interact with people who you wouldn’t normally come into contact with on a more personal level…and a much less creepy one compared to friending or faning on Facebook.

Similarly, Dwight is doing more than just mindlessly creating content and shoving it into the micro-blogosphere, he’s engaging. This is was not only increases followers, but sustains them. And sustainability is key.

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How not to tweet…for athletes

Amidst browsing, I stumbled upon a little gem posted by Socialite Life titled, “10 Athletes To Follow On Twitter.” The post from Sunday explains the good, the bad and the ugly, all of which are entertaining. Selections are anywhere from basketball and football superstars to “snarky” skateboarders. This got me thinking…we could all probably learn how not to tweet by examining a few micro-blogging faux pas.

Here I’ve put together three simple rules for athletes on Twitter:

1. Don’t disrespect your followers. Number six on the list is Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver, Chad Ochocinco (@ochocinco). The Socialite Life post notes one of his tweets, “In the gym for what I call Upper Body Mondays,most of you are on lunch I assume right?” These are your fans; don’t insult them. Life in the NFL doesn’t last forever; if you’re smart, you will value your fans because they’ll sustain you after the NFL.

2. Grammar counts. Many athletes already deal with a standing stereotype of being stupid. Instead of feeding the fire, prove them wrong. At the risk of sounding like a journalism geek, good grammar is sexy. A tweet from USA Tennis player, Andy Roddick (@andyroddick) reads, “Not to people who say ” direct message me. I have a great business opportunity for you”. Don’t tweet me that. :)”  I’m pretty sure the tennis hottie (now, not so much) meant to say, “Note” instead of “Not.” According to the article, Tennessee Titans quarterback, Vince Young (@vinceyoung10) tweeted, “Anyone once to play golf?” Not only that, he corrected himself, tweeting, “Wants my bad.” Anyone wants to play golf? Nice try, but no. Bad grammar makes people look stupid. Even though Twitter is a place for speedy updates, take the time to read it over.

3. Too weird is too much. A little weird is funny. A lot weird makes people question. Athletes are brands (and so is everyone else for that matter). To maintain your brand, you must not feed negative ideas of who you are. When a photo of Olympic gold medalist, Michael Phelps (@PhelpsTheFish) smoking out of a bong infiltrated the media in 2009, he was doubted more than anything as a role model. After such a public incident shaking his brand to its core, rebuilding his image should be a priority for the years following. Instead, the swimmer posts tweets like “I think I saw a ghost last night… Or it was one realistic dream…kinda of cool but weird…” Socialite Life goes so far as to speculate that Phelps was under some kind of influence while tweeting. If you’re already treading deep waters, you can drown your career in questionable tweets; no pun intended.

The moral of the post? Be careful what you tweet. Learn from these guys what not to do whether you’re an athlete or not, famous or not; everyone has a brand to protect.

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