This year has seen one of the biggest sports scandals in recent memory: the Deflategate saga of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. It dominated the headlines of all different types of media including social media. The story originally gained traction because of tweets from reporter Bob Kravitz and ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen. Eventually, Mortensen’s tweet was shown to be inaccurate which created more social media controversy and he eventually removed the tweet. This shows the power that just one or two tweets can have and potentially launch one of the biggest stories of the year. Throughout the controversy Patriot fans have used social media to continuously and relentlessly bash the NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell. I’m sure that if any of you guys are Boston sports fans these posts have been all over your feeds this year.
Social media and Twitter in particular have proved to be a popular way for fans to lash out against organizations like the NFL and NCAA. Local personalities like broadcaster Scott Zolak and Barstool founder Dave Portnoy have been all over social media with their vocal and often comical criticisms of the NFL. This summer my Twitter and Facebook feeds were plastered with pictures of pro-Patriots shirts or Roger Goodell clown face shirts. It was really an inescapable part of social media this summer.
These controversies that blow up on social media seem to happen pretty often in sports. A few years ago the NFL hired replacement referees to start the season and their performance was abysmal. The resulting media and social media uproar eventually forced the league to give the old refs a raise and bring them back. Again, this shows what kind of impact the fans can exert on these major organizations.
This week we saw another example of how fans can exert influence through social media. After a college football game on Saturday, star LSU running back Leonard Fournette announced that he would auction off his game jersey to benefit flood victims in South Carolina. (Since LSU played U of S. Carolina on Sat.) An initial ruling from the NCAA said that Fournette could not auction off his own jersey. A rapid social media backlash quickly forced the NCAA to tweet that it would allow Fournette to do this kind act. It is these strict and often stupid rules that regularly cause fans to cry out on social media. I think this is a good thing though because it allows these organizations to get a real sense of what their fans think and to adjust their antiquated rules.
Just tonight I found another example that could possibly go viral.
This tweet from an ESPN reporter shows yet another example of rigid rulemaking and poor judgement by sports organizations. I think this example could potentially become a big story on social media. It’s a totally insensitive policy by the NFL and these kinds of stories really get fans angry. The NFL and NCAA should learn that their every move will now be scrutinized on social media and that they will have to do a better job of running their organizations. This is not only relevant for sports leagues but for all businesses in this social media age.