Should Professional Franchises Express Opinions on Twitter?

This past February, the Calgary Flames found themselves in the midst of a Twitter crisis. As news spread that Edmonton Oilers forward Ales Hemsky would be receiving a new contract, a tweet went out from the Calgary Flames official Twitter feed that was less than professional.

The Flames quickly addressed the matter by removing the tweet and issuing an apology. Then, later that day, they addressed the problem directly on their website by explaining that the Social Media manager intended to tweet from his personal account, but accidentally sent the tweet from the Flames’ official account.

Accidental tweets aren’t a new phenomenon in the sports world. After all, when discussing sports, we’re often talking about emotionally charged individuals with the power to immediately reach millions of fans and journalists. In 2012 alone, we’ve seen accidental or controversial tweets from Sean Locklear of the Washington Redskins and Delonte West of the Dallas Mavericks, as well as former Cleveland Browns beat writer Tony Grossi, who tweeted “He is a pathetic figure, the most irrelevant billionaire in the world” regarding Browns owner Randy Lerner. The tweet, like so many others, was meant to be a direct message intended for a colleague rather than public consumption.

So when news spread yesterday of Tim Tebow’s trade to the New York Jets, causing a Twitter explosion of news and opinions on the trade, it should have been expected that we’d be subjected to an accidental tweet. It seemed that we got one too, when the Washington Redskins official Twitter account tweeted the following opinion yesterday afternoon:

Yet 15 minutes after the tweet, it became clear it was no accident. Not only did the Redskins not delete the tweet, they defended it, twice. While that means we can’t add the Redskins to the list of organizations delivering accidental tweets, we can examine them as a unique sports organization that shares opinions on Twitter.

The Redskins, like other organizations, rely on a single person to manage team social media channels, and that’s ok. Additionally, one can assume that any person managing social media for a professional sports organization is a sports fan, and thus has opinions about signings, transactions and other happenings; and that’s ok too. When those elements are added together incorrectly, however, a team can end up in danger.

Social media managers need to remember that they aren’t just voicing their own opinion when using a platform like Twitter. Rather, they represent the entire organization or brand. In the case of the Redskins, that means players, coaches and front office personnel. Does head coach Mike Shanahan think Tebow and the Jets is an awkward fit? What about team owner Daniel Snyder? Maybe they do and maybe they don’t, I don’t know. What I do know is that the Redskins social media manager didn’t either. I also know that even if Snyder and Shanahan did believe the Tebow trade didn’t make a lot of sense for the New York Jets, they certainly wouldn’t publish that information on any public platform.

Tweeting opinions, especially negative, about a competing organization is never a good thing. It’s irresponsible, unprofessional, and uncalled for. Athletes are frequently reprimanded for their inappropriate tweets. When they are, they often talk about their need to realize that they represent an entire organization when they vocalize their opinions. Why aren’t Social Media managers given the same treatment? If anything, the punishment should be more severe. These are professionals who supposedly know better.

Alas, Twitter is a notoriously fast moving medium, and the masses will quickly forget about the Redskins much in the same way they did the Calgary Flames. Regardless of the attention they get, the Redskins should do the right thing. They should pull the tweet and issue an apology.

What do you think? Do you agree that the Redskins made a mistake here, or do you believe opinions demonstrate the human element of otherwise boring organizational Twitter feeds? Let your voice be heard in the comments section.

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  1. It’s a good point, look at the @LAKings success in the playoffs, it definitely needs to fit for the brand but more importantly fit for your fans. In the end they are your customers if they like I say go for it. A few of our clients at @SportsGeekHQ have done it with great feedback from fans

    • Hey Sean –
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. You’ve got a great point with the @LAKings. They are definitely not typical when it comes to their Twitter use, and it’s really worked for them. I think the major difference between them and the Redskins is consistency. The Kings are consistently sarcastic, and everyone knows it’s how they use the medium. The Redskins tweet was a negative to me because it deviated from their typical tone, which made it appear like a serious criticism of a competing organization. That, in my mind, is unprofessional.

  1. Tweeting Off-Topic « The Sports Twitter-verse

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