Professional sports leagues focus on the weirdest things when they start cracking down on misbehavior. For example, the NFL doesn't seem to particularly mind players abusing steroids (the punishment for failing a steroid drug test is a four-game suspension -- basically a slap on the wrist)... but NFL players who use social media during a game are liable for a $25,000 fine. This is part of a communications blackout which decrees players may not use cell phones, electronic devices, or social media including Twitter or Facebook within 90 minutes of kickoff.
And it seems the NFL is serious about the social media ban: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco just got slapped with a $25,000 fine for tweeting during a game on Tuesday. Ochocinco, who's had social media run-ins with the NFL before, apologized (via Twitter) noting, "that was 2 months of my Bugatti payments you just took from me, I won't do it again."
Maybe someone can explain this policy to me. I can understand banning some kinds of communication during the time around games -- specifically, anything which could be used to receive last-minute tips about the opposing team's plays. But I can't guess what the NFL hopes to accomplish by preventing players from disseminating their own content, provided of course it doesn't fall in the category of game-sensitive information. If coaches or managers don't want them tweeting, that's their prerogative, and social media ought to conform to the same standards of sportsmanship as behavior on the field -- no excessive trash talking, etc. -- but why make it a league-wide rule punishable by fines?
The policy strikes me as counter-productive because allowing players to use social media during games could be a potential gold mine in terms of driving and tracking viewer engagement. Frankly, the only time athletes really have anything interesting to say is probably during the game, when they're sitting on the sidelines talking amongst themselves -- but the viewer at home usually isn't privy to their bench chatter (unless they happen to read lips). I'm sure some of this content isn't suitable for broadcast on Twitter, or any other medium, but with some basic rules in place governing language and subject matter, I imagine you could have some interesting Twitter streams -- including dynamic posting by individual players, coaches and managers, as well as team accounts and even dialogue with the public.