NFL: Refs Banned From Using All Social Media; Press Can't Live Tweet

from the free-speech-ain't-so-free dept

While it doesn’t go nearly as far as the ridiculous policies put in place recently by college’s Southeastern Conference (SEC) regarding “tweeting” on gameday, Ben alerts us to the news that the NFL has instituted its own social media policy that applies to players, referees and the media. There had been lots of talk about how the NFL was working on such policies, and they seem problematic. They ban players from doing any tweeting or sending any kind of social media message from 90 minutes before the game starts until well after the post-game press conference ends. I’m not sure why it’s so troubling that players might want to communicate with fans…

Even odder is that the rules now prohibit NFL referees from using social media, ever. Apparently, some of this is in response to a ref who apologized online for a blown call in the week after it happened. In that case, the ref is an attorney during the week, and apologized via his work email. But that raises all sorts of questions. What if the ref’s job during the week requires the use of social media? And, honestly, what’s so wrong with letting refs communicate?

Finally, the new rules tell the credentialed media that they can’t provide any sort of live “play-by-play” info via social media, though, I can’t see how that’s enforceable (other than kicking the reporter out of the stadium). Once again, this seems like part of the league’s misguided belief that it can control how reporters report on a game. The first link above notes how ridiculous it is that someone sitting in the stands can easily live tweet a play-by-play, while the professional reporters cannot. The whole idea, of course, is that the NFL wants to “protect” its broadcasting contracts, that get sold for a ton. But the idea that a live tweet somehow replaces a TV broadcast is ridiculous. Personally, as someone who follows a bunch of sports reporters on Twitter who do tweet info during sporting events, I find it a useful reminder that I wish I had the time to watch a game…

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Comments on “NFL: Refs Banned From Using All Social Media; Press Can't Live Tweet”

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ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Frakin' frakers!

Ed Hochuli is the best ref working today. But he’s human, and occasionally errs. That’s life in the NFL (possibly barring coach’s challenges.) The fact that he manned up and admitted his mistake should have been a cause for celebration. Where the hell do you ever see that?

But no, it’s a source of shame, and cause for punishment, in the NFL. Hello? We’re not stupid, we see blown calls ALL THE DAMN TIME. At least Ed’s wasn’t a pattern of punishing one team (we see that too, no mistake.)

Getting really tired of the NFL, and the season hasn’t even started.

Douglas Adams got it right says:

Douglas Adams captured this spirit in Rule Thee of Brockian Ultra-Cricket.

“Put your team and the opposing team in a large field and build a high wall round them.

The reason for this is that, though the game is a major spectator sport, the frustration experienced by the audience at not actually being able to see what’s going on leads them to imagine that it’s a lot more exciting than it actually is. A crowd that has just watched a rather humdrum game experiences far less life-affirmation than a crowd that believes it has just missed the most dramatic event in sporting history.”

Mark Harrill (profile) says:

As an Official...

Ok the restrictions on the other portions make no sense but I would like to expand on part of the rationale on the officials:

As an official everything you say is scrutinized on the field and items on social networks could lend fuel to the fire. Think of innocuous statements such as “Can’t believe I have to go to Oakland this week” and how people could construe that statement to mean the official has something against the Raiders and that he will make calls against them. Then you combine that statement with a blown call and you could see the NFL with a PR nightmare on it’s hands not to mention a high chance of being sued (knowing it may not go far).

Now that being said, I think an outright ban on using social media is wrong. There are certain things that shouldn’t be talked about (interaction with coaches, players, dislikes of certain areas or teams, stuff like that) but a lot of what can be said on a social network could be beneficial and certainly couldn’t hurt the NFL. I update my facebook and twitter regularly with the games I am going to (i.e. “off to work XXX vs YYY 8th grade game) but I never make commentary about what happened in the game, with coaches, players or even other officials.

As for Hochuli’s apology, the NFL should be applauding him for that. Due to their policies of keeping officials away from the press and fans, the officials are the most insulated members of the NFL. For him to come out and admit he was wrong adds a human face to the official and allows people to remember that the officials are human and maybe let people cut them a bit more slack.

brent (profile) says:

Re: Something worth striking over

i completely agree with you on that one. They are the only ones who can do something about this, but if they dont play they wont get paid and i dont think they will want to go without pay. If the refs were to strike the NFL would find refs who wouldnt strike. People arent going to stop watching football so us normals out here can’t really make any difference on this.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I would think a total ban on social media would be regarded as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech and therefore couldn’t be enforced on a contract.”

Free speech = prohibiting the legislative branch from putting forth laws limiting reasonable free speech that is not directly endangering others.

NFL != The Legislative Branch.

Although it’d be kind of fun if it did.

“I, Brian Urlacher, the representative from Illinois do yield the floor to Senator Ocho Cinco…”

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The employer should have no right to govern the lives and restrict the free speech of an employee, by doing so they act like a government and the government should deny them such authority.”

Uh, no. The government needs to keep it’s hands out of the affairs of private firms so long as those firms are not breaking the law. The anti-trust exemption of the NFL makes the waters a tad murkier, but not enough. Employers have the right to restrict activities when players are at work, for instance, and to restrict speech with regard to informaton about the inner workings of the company and/or speech detrimental to the company’s public image.

The NFL can do this. Whether they SHOULD do it is another question entirely…

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Um, what anti-trust exemption? I think you’re thinking of MLB.”

Oh, yeah, you must be right. I must be….wrong? Can this be? Must I consider that my world view that in all my helmetiness I am always right?

….wait for it…..

Ooooooh wait, I guess I was talking about the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961. You know, the one that not only gave the NFL an antitrust exempt status, but also has been interpreted to give them certain powers, like determining coverage of games, broadcasting rights, and allowance of home teams to blackout games from television. You know, the very heart of the matters that have been discussed about the NFL on Techdirt over the past several days.

Phew. Here I thought I was in trouble when it turns out you were just incredibly, fantastically wrong.

(Pssst, hey there sports fan, here’s a little reading material for you. If you were a football fan, you’d have remembered all that hoopla over the past two years about home towns not having their games on the NFL Ticket network, and certain members of Congress discussing it on your dime as the tax payer)

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“Are you saying that the SBA covers Twitter? That’s an interesting interpretation.”

Very interesting, and stupid actually, but it isn’t MY interpretation, it’s the NFL’s. They’ve been pointing to the overturning of that one TV package to CBS as giving them carte blanche reign over realtime broadcasting rights of their product. THEY are including Twitter in this interpretation, not me.

None of which is the point. You asked “Um, what anti-trust exemption?” as if one did not exist, at which point in trounced your ignorance of the subject in what I will now be referring to as “being Helmeted” 🙂

You, my friend, have been Helmeted….

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

“NVery interesting, and stupid actually, but it isn’t MY interpretation, it’s the NFL’s”

Is it? That article sorta implies it, but are they actually claiming that, or just the standard “you work for us, do what we tell you” line? If the former, it would be stretching an already stretched interpretation.

“You, my friend, have been Helmeted….”

That just sounds… wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“and/or speech detrimental to the company’s public image.”

No, this is exactly the kind of speech that should not be restricted. If I’m a consumer I want to know what activities a corporation does and so that I can avoid buying stuff from such corporation if it does something I deem unethical. I have every right to know the activities my money directly supports when I buy from a corporation and freedom of speech enforcement could help protect such rights. A corporation has no right to control its public image by restricting the free speech of employees or anyone.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“I have every right to know the activities my money directly supports when I buy from a corporation”

Sorry, but you don’t. Believe me, I wish you and I did, because with such laws I would have what I believe are some very interesting lists regarding who actually owns several large companies, who sits on their boards, what banks they borrow from and have reps sitting on their boards, etc. etc. etc. Unfortunately, corporations are allowed to hide that information in layer upon layer of bullshit.

“and freedom of speech enforcement could help protect such rights.”

Again, that isn’t true. Freedom of speech in the constitution only says that CONGRESS can’t limit your speech. It has NOTHING to do with private corporations or individuals. I’m sorry, because your ideals sound good, but you’re wrong.

LostSailor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The employer has the right to set the terms of employment, within certain restrictions against discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, etc.

Since this isn’t the government, it’s not a free-speech issue, but an employment issue.

However, you could change this, if you wanted to: good luck getting a constitutional amendment saying that using social media is a fundamental right.

Ryan says:

This does apply to fans

Why is everyone missing that this does apply to fans sending tweets about the game?

“Longstanding policies prohibiting play-by-play descriptions of NFL games in progress apply fully to Twitter and other social media platforms,” the National Football League said in its statement. “Internet sites may not post detailed information that approximates play-by-play during a game.”

matt says:

Re: What about fans..

Apparently you didn’t ready any of the article, or comments this is talking about stuff related to the game people would be in attendace to watch, not about what you’re eating for dinner that night, or telling your wife you’re stuck at the office in the middle of a live football game…..

thomas (profile) says:

Re: Re: What about fans..

I did read every post about it. My point is how in the world can they tell what you are tweeting about? Are they going to somehow manage to read every tweet that goes out of the stadium? How can they do this without violating federal wiretapping laws? And what if you just tweet “Game is boring. I’m going home.”

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“The prohibition on players’ tweeting has everything to do with gambling.

There are already very strict rules regarding injury reporting. This is in the same vein.”

Bollocks. Why would banning refs from using twitter (or whatever) have anything to do with gambling. Do you think a zebra is going to twitter “Pittsburgh is going down!?” They don’t even know what games they’re refereeing, until a day or two beforehand.

Thanks for playing.

LostSailor (profile) says:

Concentrate on the Game

Employers have every right to restrict non-work-related activities during work. So, yes, the players should be concentrating on the game at hand, not tweeting about the game or planning after-game activities or anything else. So the player ban is not problematic at all to me. There’s plenty of time on non-game days (or even outside the ban’s restriction on game day) for this.

Banning the refs from ever using social media is more problematic, but is not a “free speech” restriction. If they don’t like it, then they don’t have to work for the NFL.

As for journalists, again, more problematic, but the NFL does have the right to put restrictions in place for credentialed journalists.

None of these seem especially “bad” moves by the NFL, as in moves that are going to “hurt” them with fans.

BAlbrecht (profile) says:

The problem with the NFL is that the game has taken a back seat to the celebrity. The front office has become obsessed with controlling the image of its membership and forgotten the real reason fans like to watch. The league has taken on the model of the Vince McMahon’s WWF. How do they expect anyone to take it seriously anymore?

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