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These Athletes Should Be on Twitter

michael vick

For professional athletes, Twitter can be an incredibly valuable tool. It is a way to connect with current fans and to earn new ones. It is also an alternative to traditional media, providing direct access the public. Twitter is a tool for crisis management, where athletes can accept criticism and attempt to change opinions. Most importantly, Twitter serves as a channel where athletes can show off their personality, the side the public does not normally get to see. There are many, many athletes on Twitter, from average players to superstars. But I can think of a few in particular who are not on and should be.

#1. Michael Vick

Three years ago, Michael Vick was a superstar athlete, one of the most recognizable players in the NFL, and a very, very rich man. Two and a half years ago, he was implicated in organizing and funding a massive, illegal dog-fighting ring. And two years ago, Vick was bankrupt and in prison, serving a 23-month sentence for his crime. Now, he is back in the NFL and has a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles roster. He has apologized profusely, claiming he is a changed man and ready to turn his life around. He is the perfect candidate for social media and for Twitter. In his ongoing effort to rebrand himself, Twitter would give him the ability to turn critics into fans through personal engagement and honesty. He could also post Twitpics and videos showing evidence of the community outreach he has been doing and will continue to do. Twitter could be an important part of his rebranding process.

#2. Barry Bonds (and other steroids users)

I have already whined about the lack of MLB players on social media and on Twitter. But the one group of players that absolutely needs to be on Twitter are those who have been accused or found to have taken steroids. Barry Bonds has been the poster child for the Steroids Era, and took a huge hit to his image once allegations of his steroids use surfaced. Part of this fallout was due to the fact that he allegedly took steroids, but perhaps an even larger part of it was Bonds’ personality and the way he handled the situation. Twitter would give Bonds, and all other alleged steroids users, the chance to explain themselves and clear the negative air surrounding them as much as possible.

#3. Brett Favre

A couple years ago, when Brett Favre retired (the first time), most people accepted him as one of the greatest quarterbacks the NFL had ever seen and a first ballot Hall of Famer. He held almost every significant quarterback record, including the record for most career passing touchdowns. Favre was generally well liked by fans, and beloved in Green Bay. He was the Levis jeans guy. Then came his ridiculous offseasons of toying with the media and with the fans, unretiring and retiring seemingly every few weeks. Unsurprisingly, many fans lost respect for Favre. Had he been on Twitter, he could have gone around the media to communicate directly with the fans. I don’t think that it is too late to repair his image. He still has time to get on Twitter and change opinions.
(Check out these awesome, but fake accounts: @BrettFavre and @Fake_BrettFavre).

#4. Lebron James

Quite simply, he is the King. He is one of the two or three most exciting and talented players of this generation, and might be an all-time great when his career comes to an end. Not only is he incredible to watch on the court, but he has shown a lot of personality off the court as well. People are captivated by Lebron James, and with Twitter, he has a chance to take his popularity to a different level. Shaq is a superstar athlete with an amazing personality who has completely dominated Twitter. With the NBA’s strong presence, Lebron’s abilities and character, and Shaq as a teammate for guidance, there is no reason he cannot do the same. Ironically, it has not been a great off season for Lebron. Between walking off the court without shaking his opponents’ hands after losing to the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals and confiscating the dunk video, he has definitely hurt his brand. Then again, it’s nothing a couple months on Twitter and a few thousand @replies to disgruntled fans and non-fans couldn’t fix.

Honorable Mentions

Michael Jordan – For basketball fans around the world.
Michael Phelps – For all the screaming 14-year-old girls on Twitter.
Mike Tyson & John Madden – For pure hilarity.

I know I missed a few. So tell me, which athlete not on Twitter most needs to be?

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8 Responses to These Athletes Should Be on Twitter

  1. Brad Williamson - The Virtual Biographer™ September 18, 2009 at 7:21 am #

    Josh Hamilton needs to have a full-on Virtual Biography. I know he made an oopsie earlier in the year, but he’s trying to spread positive messages to people throughout the country, and what better way is there to do that than through the social strengths of the Web?

    Anyone got his number? I need to have a talk with the dude 😉

  2. Russell Scibetti September 18, 2009 at 8:24 am #

    Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson (there is an AP account, but its bare). They are the NFL’s most marketable athletes, and the NFL should try to replicate the marketing success that NBA athletes have had on Twitter. These three would definitely have the largest impact.

  3. Joslin Green September 18, 2009 at 9:12 am #

    Michael Jordan (@michaeljordan) is on Twitter but could definitely use some assistance in generating more interesting tweets. Lebron was on earlier this year but seems to have disappeared. Vick definitely should be on and agree with Russell’s top three NFL picks.

  4. Gail Sideman September 19, 2009 at 4:25 pm #

    Brett Favre would be entertaining, but I really don’t believe he thinks his image needs repair. If you listen to his press conferences when he joined both the Jets and the Vikings, he told Packers fans that they had nothing to be mad at him about. His indecision has only increased his marketability (see new Sears commercial). I would love to see him on Twitter, but you won’t sell him by saying he needs it to improve his image.

  5. Ryan Dupuie September 22, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    @Sam
    You bring up an interesting take on how important Twitter is and can be to professional athletes. I agree with you that “Twitter serves as a channel where athletes can show off their personality, the side the public does not normally get to see.” Many fans and media outlets look to Twitter to see what athletes (and sometimes coaches) have to say about their personal lives and their take on things that you won’t normally hear in other traditional media forms. You mention a few athletes that you think should use Twitter, and here are my comments on each:

    Michael Vick –
    I agree with you here. Michael has been trying so hard to prove to everyone that he is a changed man and I think his proactive efforts in the community go overlooked. Michael should be tweeting all the good deeds he’s been doing and maybe posting links to local news coverage of them, because it seems as though the mass media outlets don’t really care.

    Barry Bonds (and others accused of using steroids) –
    Barry is out of the league and out of people’s minds when they think of baseball now. I don’t think anyone would really care to follow him on Twitter (unless they were diehard fans of him), so I don’t think it’s crucial he tweets. However, for the other players, if they wanted to use Twitter as a way to explain themselves they would have to be very careful as to what they say to avoid backlash.

    Brett Favre –
    Brett used to be my favorite NFL player, until he couldn’t make up his mind and ruined the tradition of “sticking with your team ‘til the end.” I think Brett’s actions speak louder than anything he could ever say on Twitter, so I don’t think tweeting would be the best way to change opinions. Concentrating on taking the Vikings deep in the playoffs would be the best option for him. (And just a side note: Brett is the Wrangler jeans guy, not Levi’s)

    Lebron James –
    You would think Lebron would be all over Twitter, wouldn’t you? He is one of the most exciting athletes to watch and he could definitely utilize Twitter to connect closer with his fans and admirers (he has millions).

    Sam, although we disagree on some and agree on others, I think your emphasis is clear and many athletes and coaches should consider utilizing Twitter, because it can benefit their image immensely. However, I do think they have to be careful at what they say and how they use Twitter because sending the wrong message and trying to explain themselves in a 140 character tweet might not save them. I’m interested to see your opinion: which athlete do you think uses Twitter the best?

  6. Sam September 22, 2009 at 4:15 pm #

    Russell, I agree. Those three would have an enormous impact for the NFL. They have huge draws in and out of their own markets and need to be on Twitter. Good call.

    Joslin, can you confirm the MJ account is real? It’s not verified and updated infrequently. If it is real, you’re right, he needs some help! (MJ, call me!)

    Gail, I respectfully disagree! I think Brett’s image has definitely been tarnished, not just in the eyes of GB fans, but also NY Jets fans! You’re right that he’s started to embrace his “flip flopper” image, but I think he was definitely more liked before his first retirement.

    Ryan, thank you for your thoughts. I think you’ve got some very valid opinions and appreciate the time you put in to making your comments. So thanks! As for which athlete uses Twitter the best, it has to be OchoCinco (http://twitter.com/ogochocinco). He’s unreal. Creative, interacts with fans, and hilarious… But I also have to mention my man Kerry Rhodes (http://twitter.com/kerryrhodes). He’s probably the best at getting back to nearly every fan who @replies him.

  7. Lewis Howes September 22, 2009 at 4:20 pm #

    I have to agree with Sam saying that Kerry Rhodes is really good at getting back to people who comment him on Twitter… and it makes the fans enjoy watching him even more on Sundays.

    I think OchoCinco is good on Twitter also because of all the ustream shows he is doing, and the way he is trying to engage them during the games… I don’t know if he has the same powerful brand as Shaq on Twitter yet (not as many followers yet at least) but he has his own thing going on, and is building massive attention to him.

  8. Sam September 22, 2009 at 4:23 pm #

    Lewis, how could I forget The Big Witness? He’s the man but he’s fallen off a bit in the offseason. Looking forward to when he really gets it going again once the NBA season starts!

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