NFL teams split over use of social media

One of the hot controversies at NFL training camps this summer is posting to social networking site Twitter, known as “tweeting.” Some teams have banned the use of Twitter and other social media at their training camps by players, reporters and even fans. The NFL League office, however, takes the opposite view, encouraging players to tweet to fans.

The Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions have banned any reporting of any kind from their practice camps.

Although workouts are open to the public, Dolphin coach Bill Parcells prohibits fans and media at practices from tweeting, blogging or texting. The Denver Broncos ban the use of cell phones and computers at workouts. The Indianapolis Colts even tried to prohibit the possession of spiral-bound reporters’ notebooks at practice. The ban, however, was quickly rescinded.

The Miami Dolphins require the media to shut off all electronic gear including computers, cell phones and cameras when team drills begin, which is usually about 25 minutes into practice. The team also tries to restrict fans’ use of communications, but it’s hard to enforce. At a recent workout, 3100 spectators showed up.

The coaches fear their opponents might get a competitive advantage from even the briefest tweet (limited to 140 characters) about injuries, personnel decisions, trick plays or even food. Though the San Diego Chargers allow its players to use Twitter, they recently fined cornerback Antonio Cromartie $2500 for tweeting a complaint about the food at the training camp.

Restrictions regarding the use of social media appear to contradict a recommendation from NFL headquarters that recommends teams allow tweeting and blogging during training camp practices. “It is not practical to prohibit media from doing some reporting (via tweeting, texting, blogging, etc.),” a recent league memo to teams said.

The NFL said about 300 of its players now use Twitter to communicate with fans. The league itself had 772,473 followers on its Twitter site this summer. Spokesman Brian McCarthy said the NFL has embraced Twitter, and even the commissioner tweeted from the draft.

Many coaches, however, remain skeptical of any use of social media and think that somehow it could lead to their defeat in a game.

The Professional Football Writers of America has complained about the media restrictions at NFL practices open to the public. They remain optimistic that the policies will change as certain coaches learn more about the use of social media.

Some already have. Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio already sends text messages to reporters. Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini laughed off secrecy concerns and called tweeting an excellent way to communicate. The Philadelphia Eagles this year have an air-conditioned trailer at camp set up to house bloggers.