Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Professional Athletes Must Be Careful When Using Social Media

During the past two years, professional athletes have started to embrace social media. For example, active NFL players such Chad Ochocinco and Reggie Bush have more than a million Twitter followers. These two NFL players have successfully combined their on the field play with their off the field personalities to become popular on social media.

Social media offers professional athletes new and exciting ways to engage and interact with their fans. Unfortunately, social media usage by professional athletes may also cause some unforeseen problems. During this time, some NFL players have been fined for violating the NFL's social media policy because they tweeted during a game. Other players have made inappropriate comments on Twitter. For example, former Kansas City Chief Larry Johnson lost more than $300,000 in game day compensation for his Tweets that slurred homosexuals. Johnson's Tweets so enraged Chiefs fans that an online petition garnered more than 32,000 fan signatures to keep Johnson from returning to the team. In addition to lost game day compensation, Johnson may have lost possible lucrative post-career marketing opportunities in Kansas City.

Social media usage by professional athletes may also have serious legal consequences. For example, on December 22, 2010 it was reported by the Baltimore Sun that Ravens rookie Sergio Kindle expressed uncertainty about his NFL career on Twitter after he met with his doctors. Kindle has been on the reserve/non-football injury list since fracturing his skull before training camp opened earlier this year. Discussing one's medical condition is not something that should occur via social media. Less than a week after Kindle's Twitter medical update he was charged with a DUI. In addition, Kindle through an interview allegedly admitted to drinking and driving. It appears that Kindle has deleted his Twitter account within the past 48 hours of this writing.

Kindle's social media usage along with his poor judgment may end up not only harming his NFL career, it may also cause him legal trouble. A prosecutor may utilize Kindle's Tweets and his alleged interview admission regarding the DUI against him in court. Even if Kindle's attorney is able to have Kindle's blood alcohol score and/or other evidence excluded from the case, a prosecutor may still be able to utilize Kindle's Tweets before and after the alleged DUI and his alleged admissions to a reporter regarding the incident.

As more and more people utilize social media, these type of issues will drastically increase. Therefore, it is imperative to think twice before making a social media post because you never know how it may be used against you at a later date.

To learn how to protect your social media profile you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.

Copyright 2010 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.