Directly following the Denver Broncos’ comeback win over the dreadful 0-7 Miami Dolphins on Sunday October 23rd, Broncos starting quarterback Tim Tebow, in signature fashion, kneeled in reflection while his other teammates wildly celebrated the improbable win. Tebow—a second year NFL quarterback who has acquired a reputation for publicly displaying his Christian faith since starring as a Heisman “quarterback” for the Florida Gators—has also gained a reputation for having the lowest quarterback rating (QBR) in the NFL while maintaining a starting role at quarterback this year.
Is anyone shocked, though? Tebow is not, and never was, the stereotypical quarterback. As a senior at Florida, he threw 21 touchdowns, yet rushed for almost the same number (14). Florida fans grew to anticipate and love his quarterback sneaks into the end zone, where he rode piggyback on the shoulders of his fullback or offensive line, or personally bulldozed several linebackers as if they were crash test dummies. Notwithstanding Tebow’s endless drive to excel and win, his former tactics clearly have not worked in the NFL. NFL players are bigger and quicker, and as a quarterback, you can’t sit in the pocket for nine seconds without getting rid of the ball. He has had flashes of brilliance this season mostly due to his pure athleticism, but they have been largely outweighed by his miserable decision making as the field general.
Surprisingly, conversation and criticism regarding Tebow’s poor play during his two starts as the Broncos quarterback this season have taken a backseat to banter regarding his signature kneel. Indeed, following his ugly comeback win against the Dolphins on October 23rd, an immediate Internet craze baptized his kneel as “Tebowing.” And since then, Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch and tight end Tony Scheffler celebrated significant plays against the Broncos last Sunday by Tebowing. Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard tweeted pictures of him Tebowing in a fast food restaurant. Moreover, the media has butted heads as to whether such imitation amounts to either disrespect and mocking of Tebow’s faith or mere playful entertainment.
Personally, I haven’t quite decided who is right or wrong with respect to the issue. Nonetheless, I can confidently state that if you are a professional athlete, the act of Tebowing opens you up to more negative criticism than praise, even when your intentions are playful and innocent. How does it possibly promote your brand as a professional? It doesn’t. If anything, professional athletes who imitate the kneel risk coming off as absolute jerks who are insensitive towards other individuals’ faith and the ways in which they express it. They further risk alienating themselves from the aforementioned fan base.
Accordingly, I’d like to highlight another figure in professional sports who is worthy of more than mere imitation: Oklahoma City star forward Kevin Durant. This past Monday, October 31st, Durant—one of many NBA players who currently sits on the sidelines while Billy Hunter and the Player’s Association negotiates with the league and its owners regarding a new collective bargaining agreement—decided to engage his twitter followers by expressing his boredom and need to be active. Soon thereafter, the following tweets were exchanged between Durant and Oklahoma State student George Overbey regarding a possible opportunity for Durant to join George’s Fraternity in a flag football game that night:
@KDTrey5: This lockout is really boring..anybody playing flag football in Okc..I need to run around or something!
@groverbey: Got a game tonight in Stillwater!! I need a deep threat!! RT @KDTrey5: This lockout is really boring..anybody playing flag football in Okc..
@KDTrey5: @groverbey can I play
@groverbey: Can you catch?? Weve won the ‘ship for 3 years! Tonight @ 10 RT @KDTrey5: @groverbey can I play
@KDTrey5: @groverbey forreal?
@groverbey: Only if you bring your A game. Yes for real! Come up early and hangout, go over some plays RT @KDTrey5: @groverbey forreal?
Durant and George subsequently exchanged several private twitter messages and text messages, which led to Durant picking up George and several of his friends from their residence in his lavish—but very modest—van and driving them to the flag football game in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
On the football field, Durant further cemented his reputation as being both an elite athlete and a stand up guy. Though the Oklahoma City Thunder could have likely voided his five-year $86 million contract extension due to kick-in this year had Durant sustained a serious injury on the field that night, he played the entire flag football game, recorded four touchdown passes on offense and three interceptions on defense. He left the game in the same modest fashion by which he arrived, signing hundreds of autographs and interacting with just about every fan that reached out to him.
Most importantly, Durant left his fans with the sentiment that he doesn’t consider himself special or incapable of interacting with any of them on any given day. Clearly, he’s just another one of the guys. George Overbey summed it up best:
@groverbey: Had one of the best nights of my life tonight.. Game ball goes to @KDTrey5 . 4 tds and 3 picks! Thanks for coming up bro!
As a young professional, often your success directly correlates to the small decisions you make along your career path. Thus far, Durant has figured “it” out, and has made all of the right decisions to propel his professional image off of the charts. To all of you professional athletes who are attempting to brand yourself in a similar fashion, try “Duranting.”
 Most NBA Team-Player contracts establish that teams have the discretion to void players’ contracts where they engage in any activity that would subject them to more than a normal risk of injury. For instance, in 2003, the Chicago Bulls waived the contract of second-year player Jay Williams following his involvement in a motorcycle accident that seriously injured him. The team maintained that his contract was no longer legally enforceable and that it did not have to payout his remaining salary because he violated the contract by riding a motorcycle and injuring himself. Williams, nonetheless, received a $3 million buyout from the Bulls as a parting gift.
Welcome to your Friday Morning Workout, THIRDandFOUR’s new weekly post for those of you who missed the week’s news concerning sports law, sports business, sports media, or sports public relations. Dig in and make sure you break a sweat!
Selig fully supports David Einhorn’s purchase of one-third of the Mets from principal owners Fred Wilpon and family, notwithstanding the $1-billion plus lawsuit that has been brought against the Wilpons by Trustee Irving Pickard on behalf of victims of Bernard Madoff’s ponzi scheme. The Court recently granted the Wilpons’ motion to move the case from the bankruptcy court to a federal district court, where Judge Rakoff likely will limit the plaintiffs’ recovery based on a theory that the Wilpons’ failure to investigate Madoff’s investments did not constitute “willful blindness” or culpable intent. Read more.
Erin Andrews opens up about her stalker. Read more.
The assistant to Canadian sports doctor Anthony Galea claims that though the doctor treated Tiger Woods after his 2009 knee surgery, he did not inject Woods with any illegal substances. Read more.
Shaquille O’Neal decides to join TNT’s NBA Coverage. Read more.
Former Cowboy’s wide receiver and sports commentator Michael Irvin appears shirtless on the cover of the gay men’s magazine Out, where he explains that his passion for marriage equality is a direct result of his relationship with his gay brother who died from cancer in 2006. Read more.
ESPN Now Making Candy Bars too? Read more.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association project that they will ratify a new CBA by July 21, 2011 in order to save the entire NFL pre-season. The most complex issues yet to be resolved through negotiations are veteran free agency and the rookie wage system. Read more.
See how sports figures use Twitter. Read more.
The NFL salary cap will undoubtedly be lower than before once a CBA is adopted. With a hypothetical $120 million cap, the following six teams already exceed it: (1) the Dallas Cowboys; (2) the Oakland Raiders; (3) the New York Giants; (4) the Pittsburg Steelers; (5) the Minnesota Vikings; and (6) the Indianapolis Colts. Read more.
CNBC’s SportsBiz expert Darren Rovell provides 100 rules for using Twitter. Read more.
Pursuant to the 1999 NBA collective bargaining agreement, the NBA withholds 8% of player salaries and places it into escrow each season to ensure that these salaries do not exceed 57% of league revenues. Unlike every other season, the NBA will soon return this year’s money to the players due to increased revenue throughout the 2010-11 season—a welcome surprise for certain players and fuel to the players’ argument that the League does not need to overhaul the current financial system. Read more.
Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s Vice President of Enforcement, has made it clear that the NCAA is not done investigating Auburn with respect to its dealings with Cam Newton. Read more.
ESPN initiates suit against Ohio State University, accusing the school of violating the state’s public records law by denying requests for information concerning the NCAA’s investigation of Tressel and Pryor. Read more.
Despite Prince Fielder’s displayed adoration for his sons during the MLB All-Star festivities this week (a true image booster), he has no intentions of rebuilding the torn relationship between him and his father, former all-star first baseman Cecil Fielder. Read more.
Sports Illustrated’s List of 100 people in Sports To Follow on Twitter. Read more.
Adam Pacman Jones may have, for once, been profiled and improperly targeted leading up to his July 10th arrest. Read more.
The NCAA nabs its next victim: Georgia Tech over a mere $312. Read more.
It’s no secret that social media, and in particular Twitter, are a great way for athletes and celebrities to connect with fans, promote their work, and be a voice for brands looking for exposure. Under the right circumstances, Twitter can a powerful tool that athletes can use to build their media brand and create an audience. But what’s becoming increasingly apparent is that Twitter is also a dangerous weapon that keeps agents, managers, team presidents and publicists up at night.
One needs to look no further than Rashard Mendenhall, Gilbert Arenas, and of course most recently, Congressman Anthony Weiner, to see how under the wrong circumstances, Twitter can go from asset to disaster. In Rashard Mendhall’s case, some poorly timed and worded tweets on a hot button issue cost him an endorsement deal with Champion. Gilbert Arenas’ decision to live tweet about a bad date he was on will probably end up with a check being written to the NBA league office. And Anthony Weiner, though not an athlete, is the perfect example of what can happen if you don’t probably understand the permanence of what you put into cyberspace. As more and more celebrities, personalities and athletes look to Twitter to build their brand and reach fans, it’s inevitable that we will see more scandals. It’s important that they know how to properly use the medium to their advantage, and what to avoid so they can stay out of Twitter jail.
Here are just a few DOs and DON’Ts that every athlete should consider the next time they choose to express themselves in 140 characters or less.
1. Do engage with your followers. Don’t get dragged into wars of words.
Engaging with fans is the #1 reason why every athlete should be on Twitter. The ability to easily connect with fans is a great way to create an off the field, ice or court persona and to let your fans know what really interests you outside of your sport. Tweeting back and forth with fans is a great way to let them know what you’re up to, and learn more about how they feel about you and your team. However, it is very important to remember that not all people will have nice things to say. The ability to be anonymous means many “fans” will use Twitter as a chance to say some awful things about you. The only thing you can do is IGNORE IT! Getting into a battle of words over Twitter is a path you never want to take. You’ll never win, and you only risk hurting your own image. In short, respond to the positive and ignore the negative.
2. Do share your outside interests. Don’t talk about politics, religion or other sensitive topics
As Rashard Mendenhall recently demonstrated, one or two mis-tweets on hot-button subjects can have very real ramifications. A few poorly worded tweets about Osama Bin Laden’s death ended up costing Rashard an endorsement deal. Therefore, its important to stay away from potentially controversial topics like politics and religion. There is no upside in making your feelings known on these subjects, and the only possible result is that you alienate fans or sponsors. Even if your intentions are pure, it’s tough to properly express yourself in 140 characters, and things often get misunderstood. Instead, use Twitter as an opportunity to let your fans know about what interests you outside of your sport or field.
3. Do engage with your fellow athletes and friends. Don’t use Twitter for your personal conversations
One of the great things about Twitter is watching athletes and celebrities engage with each other. The tweets back and forth are often humorous and entertaining, and often give us a glimpse into your personal life. But it’s important to make sure the conversation doesn’t become too personal. Cracking jokes about what happened in the locker room is great. Revealing personal information about whereabouts or plans is not a good idea. And just like in real life, sometimes a joke or trash talk can go too far – be careful not to cross that line on Twitter too.
4. Do get involved in contests and giveaways. Don’t fail to deliver on the promises you make
I love to see an athlete engage fans by participating in a giveaway on Twitter. It’s a great way to show fans that you care and it helps build a following. But if you’re going to give something a way (a jersey, picture, tickets, etc.) make sure you can deliver on your promise! All the goodwill you created by creating a contest or giveaway can be washed away in an instant if you fail to live up to your promises. And if you’re giving away an experience that involves coordinating with a location or other people (restaurants, your team, movie theaters, etc.), make sure to clear everything with them first!
5. Do use Twitter as a way to develop relationships with people in other industries you want to know. Don’t continue to build the relationship publicly on Twitter
Just like fans use Twitter to connect with their favorite athletes, Twitter can be a way for you to connect with people in other industries that you want to know. If you’re looking to branch out into music, television, marketing, finances, real estate etc., Twitter is a great way to meet people in these fields. But remember, Twitter is a public forum, so whatever you say can be read by millions of people. And once you’ve established contact, take the conversation offline. It’s nobody else’s business what you’re doing to build business opportunities outside of your own industry.
6. Do use pictures and videos as a way to build your following. Don’t Tweet anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable showing your parents or children
Hearing what an athlete has to say on Twitter is great, experiencing it through video or pictures is even better. Uploading videos and pictures are a great way to expand your Twitter following, and your fans will love to see what you’re up to at that moment. But always remember that once you’ve tweeted something, you can’t get it back. A picture of you at a strip club, or a video of you drunk will live on the internet forever, so think twice before you send something into the Twitterverse. And if you need a reminder, just Google Anthony Weiner and see what happens when a Twitpic goes wrong.
7. Do Tweet about products and services you enjoy using. Don’t trash those products or services you don’t like
Even if you’re not at the point where you are getting paid to endorse for companies on Twitter, it doesn’t mean you can’t tweet about or at products you like. It’s a great way to get on their radar for future endorsement opportunities. If they have a smart pr/marketing team running their Twitter account, they’ll take notice of who you are and hopefully try to work out a deal for some publicity. At the very least, you may get some free products! However, be very careful when trashing products you don’t like. Many of these companies sponsor teams, radio stations, and television networks. One critical tweet can sour a relationship, and you never know when you may need that brand in your corner.
8. Do link to articles, tweets and pictures you like. Don’t fill your timeline with junk
The reason people follow you on Twitter is because they want to know what you’re interested in. If you see an article you enjoyed, a video you liked, or a tweet you found funny, you should share it with your followers. However, nobody wants to follow someone who fills their timeline with tweets, articles, and pictures all the time. It’s better to choose which things are most interesting to you and include those in your tweets. You’ll also find that more people pay attention to what you have to say and share when you’re selective with your links and thoughts.
9. Do follow others. Don’t follow too many
The Twitter experience for an athlete or a celebrity is different from that of most users since most public personalities only use Twitter to build their own audience. But Twitter is a great way to educate yourself on a variety of topics, and stay up to date on breaking news. The only way you can do that is to follow those whose opinions and ideas are important to you. Like any Twitter user, if you choose to follow too many people, or the wrong people, your timeline will be tough to manage and you won’t be able to focus on the information that is important to you. Instead, find make it a point to see who other people you respect are following, and do the same. Chances are you’ll learn something.
10. Do use Twitter as a creative outlet to express yourself. DO remember it is permanent
The most important thing to remember when using Twitter is that it is permanent. So permanent that the Library of Congress actually catalogs every tweet. So whether you’re interacting with fans, uploading a video or picture, or talking about your favorite restaurant, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, remember that once you hit send, you can’t take it back. Even though a quick deletion may result in the removal of the tweet from your news feed, if its controversial, you can bet that one of your followers will have already made a screen grab of the tweet and forwarded it to a well read blog. It happens every time. So make sure you’re not offending anyone, not attaching the wrong video or picture, and are properly replying, retweeting, or using a direct message (if appropriate). If you don’t make sure, you can be certain that the internet will let you know very quickly.