Although it's a pretty well known fact that athletes and Twitter have had a messy relationship in the past, the International Olympic Committee has decided that social media buzz would be good for the 2012 Olympics.
Not only will Olympics athletes be allowed to use Twitter during the London games next year, but the committee is actively encouraging the practice. Here's what the IOC has to say in their social media, blogging and internet guidelines for 2012:
The IOC actively encourages and supports athletes and other accredited persons at the Olympic Games to take part in ‘social media’ and to post, blog and tweet their experiences. Such activity must respect the Olympic Charter and must comply with the following. Broadly speaking, the IOC wants people to share their experiences through social media. As a general rule, the IOC encourages all social media and blogging activity at the Olympic Games as long as it is not for commercial and/or advertising purposes.
Athletes are also being warned that any content deemed vulgar or inappropriate could lead to actions as serious as the removal of Olympic accreditation (I'm looking at you, Phelps). This would basically kick them out of the games.
The committee also outlines a specific format that they want all blogging and tweeting activity to take - autobiographical. They want the athletes' tweets to comment on their personal experience at the games, not report on the games in general, as say a journalist would do.
However, any such postings, blogs or tweets should be in a first-person, diary- type format and should not be in the role of a journalist - i.e. they must not report on competition or comment on the activities of other participants or accredited persons, or disclose any information which is confidential or private in relation to any other person or organization. A tweet is regarded in this respect as a short blog and the same guidelines are in effect, again, in first-person, diary-type format.
As far as media updates to social networks? The IOC is now allowing photos to be shared. Videos can also be shared, but only if they are taken outside the actual venues. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, photos and videos were strictly prohibited from being uploaded to social media sites and blogs - for copyright reasons.
So it would seem that the IOC believes that the games can benefit from their athletes interacting with fans via social media. Although the IOC is being a little restrictive on the content, it still shows that they are embracing the new technology, especially Twitter.
The debate surrounding athletes and Twitter use continues to rage. On one hand, some feel like Twitter is a great way for athletes to communicate with fans. They feel that there shouldn't be restrictions put on the athletes by the commissioners of various sports organizations. On the flip side, people cite the foul-ups of people like Larry Johnson and Rashard Mendenhall to make the point that Twitter should be restricted.
This weekend on ESPN radio in Chicago, NFL QB Donovan McNabb let the world know his feelings about the popular microblogging site - he's no fan.
First of all, I'm not a fan of Twitter. Nothing against their program or what they have, but as an athlete I think you need to get off twitter. All these social networks of you tweeting about you watching a game when you want to be playing in it, but you're mad you're not playing in it, so you're gonna criticize someone that's playing in it. I don't believe that that's the right deal. That's not professional by any means and you know we are all in a fraternity, so if you see a guy who's struggling this isn't the time to jump on him or kick him while he's down because that same guy will come against you and kinda blast your team out the water, so I think for an athlete to be 'twittering' is the wrong move. It's one of those things to leave to the fans and let them comment on certain things, but athletes need to get off Twitter.
If we can look past the fact that McNabb sounds like an old man railing against them crazy kids and their hippity hoppity and their World Wide Compuserves, he does make one interesting point. Tweeting out your feelings about team performance can do damage to the "fraternity" that he describes. But to say that "athletes" need to get off Twitter is quite the blanket statement.
Although the NFL and NBA have had rules about Twitter in place for years now, other sports organizations have taken a different stance on the issue. Last month, UFC president Dana White announced that he would be giving bonuses based on how many Twitter followers his fighters amassed. He also announced prizes for the "most creative" tweeters.
What do you think about athletes and Twitter? Let us know in the comments.