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.
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?