Will MLB’s New Deal Kill or Enhance Players’ Access to Social Media?

Just catching up on Major League Baseball’s off-season news prior to the hot stove league heating up with the arrival of the Winter Meetings and I came upon an interesting piece in Baseball Nation about a change in social media usage in baseball.

It pointed out that there is a single line in the new collective bargaining agreement that says “All players will be subject to a policy governing the use of Social Media.” That is it, no details and no policy.

I have no issue with baseball, or any sport, having a set of guidelines for the athletes to follow in regards to social media. For instance you probably do not want people Tweeting shower scenes, which has already happened in basketball. Or sending images of their junk, which has (purportedly) happened in the NFL.

The question is will MLB simply move its rules for team employees to now also cover players or will it create a new set of guidelines, one that might be designed to always put MLB in a good light?

The new players’ policy is so short it is hard to give it the title of policy, but the open-ended nature of it does give you reason to pause. Currently baseball, and for that matter most pro sports, are pretty open about the use of Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media as a tool that its players can more directly with the fans. Outside of outlawing tweets from the free-throw line or the line of scrimmage, it’s pretty much an open game.

And rightly so. Curt Schilling has had the blog 38 Pitches for years where he posts his opinions and people can chime in. That seems almost old school (yes I know he also Tweets and uses the two for different purposes) now with the ability to follow players’ feelings and opinions in almost real time. A quick look at the web site tweeting-athletes shows the huge number of players from around the globe and around sports that are active at some level in tweeting.

Fans enjoy hearing directly from players. It may not be the most insightful sometimes, but it is often colorful and much more interesting than the canned quotes that players tend to give to live broadcasters.
I see the need for rules and a cooling off period, so that in the heat of the moment a player does not post something that he and possible his team, will regret, but I worry about leagues taking it too far.

The NFL feels no qualms about fining coaches for criticizing refs even when everybody in America has seen the replay that shows how wrong the ref was on a play. Let’s not even talk about fining people for wearing the wrong color cleats. It really is earning its title as the No Fun League. The NBA has been increasingly worried about its image over the last decade and has dictated how players will dress. However they both do seem to have an open mind on the topic of social media.

The existing rules for MLB employees and contractors can be found here– and it is pretty much what you would expect it to be: don’t pretend you are speaking for MLB, no confidential information, no using logos and property of the league and so on.

I think baseball, and all sports, need to embrace social media as an adjunct to marketing and advertising efforts. What could be better than players directly accessing fans? I guess if the players are unhappy and the team is poorly run bad things can happen, but on the whole I think the net results will be positive.

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