Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NFL Teams and Executives Must Be Aware of the Legal Consequences of Their Social Media Usage

NFL teams and their executives must be very careful when utilizing social media. A few weeks ago, I reiterated why professional athletes and entertainers must exercise caution when utilizing social media. That post was in response to Baltimore Ravens Sergio Kindle's tweets about his medical condition and his subsequent DUI arrest. On January 5, 2011, John Elway started tweeting soon after he became Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Denver Broncos based upon the recommendation of the Broncos Communications Department.

John Elway and the Denver Broncos received a tremendous amount of positive press by the national media for "conversing and engaging" with NFL fans. Sports writers and bloggers came out of the woodwork to exclaim how refreshing it was for an NFL franchise to utilize social media. It was one big love fest between members of the media and the sports blog community.

For several years, I have been predicting that professional sports will embrace social media. I am a fan of utilizing social media but as a lawyer I advise my clients of the numerous potential legal liabilities that social media may pose for users. Unfortunately, for John Elway and the Denver Broncos, Elway's social media usage may have already created some potential legal liability issues.

NFL teams and their executives should never Tweet how an interview went. On January 9th, Elway Tweeted, " Interviews with Perry Fewell and Eric Studesville went well today. We're looking forward to speaking with John Fox on Monday." Do executives from Coca-Cola or Pepsi discuss who they interviewed for high profile positions or how the interview went? No. So neither should the Denver Broncos or any other NFL team. What would happen if an NFL executive Tweeted about meeting with some, but, not every single coaching candidate and a candidate who would have complied with the Rooney Rule was not mentioned? Could this infer non-compliance with the Rooney Rule?

John Elway also Tweeted about Tim Tebow's status with the Broncos in a series of 3 tweets on January 8th which may have been in response to a report by Peter King that implied that Tebow may be traded. NFL teams must be very careful when tweeting about the status of their current, past, or potential future employees.

NFL teams and their executives may want to exercise caution when utilizing social media to ensure that they avoid any potential legal liability. Conversing and engaging with fans online may garner a lot of positive media attention but there are serious legal liability issues that users need to be aware of if they want to have a successful and non-litigious social media experience.

To learn more about the legal issues that your may affect your social media usage you may contact me at htp://www.shearlaw.com.

Copyright 2011 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.