By Limiting What Athletes And Journalists Can Do, Sports Leagues Are Stifling Their Own Growth

from the shot-in-the-foot dept

In a world where the traditional lines of "journalism" are becoming increasingly blurred, Justin Rice, over at the Nieman Journalism Lab, discusses how the "media tables are turning in the world of sports, where the subjects of coverage are becoming the creators of coverage." With tools like blogs and twitter, professional athletes are now, more than ever before, able to communicate directly with their legions of fans. The ability to self-publish has strangely drawn the ire of sporting organizations. For example, during the Olympics, the IOC placed burdensome restrictions on the blogging activities of the athletes, rendering many of the athletes mute out of frustration. We've seen in the past that both the MLB and the NFL have tried to copyright facts, something that thankfully, the courts have struck down. Furthermore, the MLB and NFL have limited the length of clips that news outlets can use in their reports.

While Rice correctly points out that these issues are not simply First Amendment issues, since they also involve "contract law, intellectual property law and copyright law." The bigger issue here is that while there certainly is plenty of legal work here to line plenty of lawyers' pockets, what these sporting organizations need to realize is that they are shooting themselves in the foot. Promoting the free distribution of the facts, videos, and stories surrounding their sporting events will only serve to promote those sporting events more. These restrictions merely serve to hamstring any sort of development that may actually deepen fans' relationship with the sporting franchise. It seems completely counterintuitive that if an athlete were willing and able to spend hours of time creating valuable content at no additional cost to anyone, that it would be quashed. If anything, athletes and journalists should be encouraged to share more video, stories and tweets with their fans.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 7:12pm

    "Sports Leagues Are Stifling Their Own Growth"

    I think Rice is soft of fishing for a story that isn't really there. Baseball, Football, and NASCAR (three biggest US sports) get so much coverage already it is almost sickening.

    They might be stifling their own growth if there was a significant number of people who were not aware of their products, but that just ain't the case.

     

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    fogbugzd, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 7:42pm

    Alternatives

    >>They might be stifling their own growth if there was a significant number of people who were not aware of their products, but that just ain't the case.

    That kind of logic has doomed many companies. The line of thinking is that they are on top, and they will stay on top by some type of divine right. This line of thinking leads to a belief that they do not have to innovate or change. Management attention shifts to enhancing existing revenue streams, usually by tightening control of what is going on.

    You get an organization that has a boring but profitable product. Inevitably it will get knocked off its pedestal by something more interesting or more efficient. The old order will whine and cry. It will probably get all kinds of pundits decrying its downfall and calling for protectionist legislation. We have seen it before, and we will probably see it again.

     

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    Motschmania (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 8:05pm

    It's not about stifling growth

    I don't think the leagues, or more so teams in the leagues, look at this is a positive way to promote themselves. Look at what Kevin Love of the MN Timberwolves tweeted during the NBA draft. He completely undermined the 'Wolves GM (even though he's probably right to do so), and if you're the GM....is that what you want your players doing? No. Think of the kind of baloney Chad Johnson is going to start spewing once he becomes unhappy after the football season starts. It can undermine the team concept and everything a coach or GM is trying to establish. Every team has plenty of things that they want to keep in house and out of the media.....no matter how much we want to hear it.

    Just wait....it will only be a matter of time before guys start getting fined for what the tweet or blog. Is that stifling growth, or keeping sports what they're supposed to be about in the first place.....competition.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 8:19pm

    Dear IOC,

    "If you build it, they will come." WordPress is free. Create an "official" blog for Olympic athletes. Then you'll not only give the fans (and athletes) what they want AND be able to monetize the content with ads, but also you'll have editorial control.

     

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  5.  
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    Gill Bates, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 9:13pm

    It must be catching

    I guess they are following in the steps of the RIAA - killing their own geese.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 9:25pm

    Re: It's not about stifling growth

    You might have hit one thing, limiting the blogging and such of individual athletes might be a way to avoid fueling their insane cults of personality that surround them.

    I can't see the benefit for the sports, only for the individuals.

     

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  7.  
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    Dennis Yang (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 9:45pm

    Re: It's not about stifling growth

    Good point.

    But, to have a blanket policy against blogging or tweeting is short sighted -- if players individually undermine the team, they should be dealt with individually..

    That said, players have already felt the sting of oversharing, as in the case of Giants' closer Brian Wilson, who stopped twittering after he got berated for blowing a save after tweeting from a late night clubbing session the night before... Still, I liked seeing Wilson's tweets, and it's a loss not to have them anymore.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:40pm

    Just like anyone else sports players should have freedom of speech and they should be allowed to state their opinions on whatever blog they feel like (including their own).

     

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  9.  
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    Richard, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 2:03am

    Re: "Sports Leagues Are Stifling Their Own Growth"

    "Baseball, Football, and NASCAR (three biggest US sports) get so much coverage already it is almost sickening."

    and are (almost) completely non-existent to anybody in the rest of the world.

    Tennis, Soccer (well Football to the rest of the world) and Formula 1 are the international sports (even Cricket has a bigger world following than the US sports) - eventually those local US sports will have to compete against the games that the rest of the world plays - or die - so they can't afford to shoot themselves in the foot!

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 12:10pm

    Re:

    and a problem with restricting the freedom of speech from a sports player is where do you draw the line? Should we restrict the freedom of speech of cops? Accountants, lawyers, people who repair cars, technicians, etc... ? If you made this a rule then no one would have freedom of speech except a select few. That defeats the whole purpose of the first amendment. No, everyone should be entitled to their freedom of speech including sports players.

     

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  11.  
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    Nick, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 2:22am

    Managing direct sharing by sports personalities

    One thing to keep in mind is that the sports want to stay in the good graces of their sponsors and assorted other groups.

    Whether justified or not, high profile players are generally seen as ambassadors for their sports, so the sports organisations are justifiably concerned that things the players say may be seen as reflecting badly on the organisations.

    Really, at least one aspect of this parallels the corporate codes of conduct that basically amount to "don't share private work matters with the world at large, whether that be via blog, Facebook, tweets or whatever". Some companies are quite open and hence happy for employees to share a lot of details about their work (e.g. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu). Others are very closed and will fire people that leak the tiniest skerrick of information (e.g. Apple).

    For sports, they need to identify things that players *shouldn't* be talking about (e.g. disciplinary matters, team tactics, relationships with sponsors or potential sponsors) and otherwise let the players have free reign over their relationship with their fans.

     

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