Sports fans love to hate on social media

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.


  1. It’s interesting, because before social media, it was difficult to chirp fans of other teams. You had to personally know someone rooting for the opponent. Now, with the click of a button, you have access to thousands of fans for the opposing team on Twitter.

    Interesting that Twitter backlash forced the NCAA to make an exception. I totally agree that it’s positive for organization to adjust antiquated rules and get a sense of what fans think by monitoring social media.

    Using the power of social media, I would love to see DeAngelo Williams raise money for breast cancer research. Although money doesn’t solve all problems, it would help the issue more than one player wearing a pink uniform.

  2. I have mixed feelings when it comes to sports fans on social media. It’s definitely a cool thing that social media has given sports fans an outlet to voice their thoughts and opinions, and it’s amazing how an average fan can have his tweets actually be heard by the teams, leagues, or players he or she cares about. On the same coin though, some sports fans can be absolutely ruthless on social media, and many of them are either completely wrong or extremely biased out of blind loyalty to their teams. It’s as if all the heckling you hear during any sports game is now published for everyone to see.

    Your post came at an interesting time for me because the infamous Chase Utley slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s leg just took place over the weekend. As a lifelong Phillies fan, Chase Utley was always my favorite player in baseball, and now I’m just sitting back and watching as he gets demonized on social media and has his reputation destroyed. What’s upsetting is that Utley was just doing whatever it took for his team to win, and a strong argument can be made that it was a completely legal play. Sports fans don’t seem to take those things into account though, and Utley is getting bashed left-and-right and being portrayed as the dirtiest player in baseball. I guarantee any other player in his situation would have gone for the takeout slide – it’s what baseball players are taught to do – but these facts get ignored once sports fans start lashing out. With most sports fans, there’s very little room for balanced and unbiased opinions on social media, only angry rants.

  3. I can definitely relate to the mention of the Patriots and Deflategate over the course of the past nine or so months. It was absolutely crazy how much the talk and criticism blew up on social media, especially on the days where big news broke or there was a court hearing. Personally, I love using social media to keep updated on the sports world. However, I think a lot of the backlash that reporters and athletes receive stem from not being well informed. I understand that all reporters want to be the first to release a big news story, but a lot of trouble comes from false information, as was the case for Chris Mortensen. It’s crazy how quickly a tweet can go viral, especially for one of these reporters who often have millions of followers (see Adam Schefter).

  4. I find sports and social media an interesting topic. Even on news twitter feeds such as the Boston Globe, sports seem to take precedent over murders, robberies, and other more serious news topics. I wonder if this is because sports is a polarizing topic. People often have strong emotions about sports; therefore, they are more likely to engage in the conversation on social media platforms.

    Regarding your last paragraph, I think it is powerful for employees, yet terrifying for higher ups, that social media can be used to encourage the change of or simply to criticize company policies. Particularly the NFL has been facing a lot of social media criticism as a result of their handling of the deflategate, so I think we will be seeing them make some actual changes or publicize more of the “good things” they do in order to influence the way they are viewed by the public. Great post! Thanks for sharing

  5. This was an awesome post! I can really relate to this post very well. Its amazing the voice that twitter has given the fans. Some of the rules made by these major organizations are absurd. The initial ruling of the LSU running back not able to sell his jersey for such a good cause is really eye opening. The fact that the NCAA wants to have such a hold over their athletes that they cant do a good deed without getting in trouble is crazy. Fans have been given a voice to lets these organizations know how they feel with a more non-businessman approach. I really enjoyed reading this post and i thought it was one of the best ive read so far.

  6. Also goes to show how difficult it is to create SM rules that apply to every situation (and the need to rethink old rules as a result of SM).

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