For ESPN, the social-networking revolution will not be televised--or tweeted, blogged, or Facebooked. Not for now, at least, and not without ESPN's approval.
The sports network has apparently banned its workforce from posting any sports-related content on social-networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook without its permission. The news first came to light Tuesday when Ric Bucher, an NBA analyst for ESPN, tweeted that he had just received an network memo regarding tweeting:
The hammer just came down, tweeps: ESPN memo prohibiting tweeting info unless it serves ESPN. Kinda figured with was coming. Not sure what this means but
In a follow-up tweet, Bucher, who has more than 18,000 followers on Twitter, pondered the gravity of his tweet revealing the memo:
I'm probably violating some sort of policy just by telling you. In any case, stay tuned.
According to a purported copy of the memo posted on the sports blog The Big Lead, Bucher may just be violating the new policy (one point begins "Avoid discussing internal policies...").
In the memo, ESPN tells employees that it is "currently building and testing modules designed to publish Twitter and Facebook entries simultaneously" on ESPN Web sites and mobile platforms, and it plans to roll out the modules this fall.
"Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted," according to the memo. But, it says, "If ESPN.com opts not to post sports related social media content created by ESPN talent, you are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on your personal platforms(.)"
The memo seems to mirror efforts announced earlier Tuesday by the Marine Corps and the National Football League affecting their respective members and employees. And while one could argue that a military ban on using social-networking sites could ultimately save lives, the NFL is apparently just trying to save itself from some embarrassment.
Professional athletes ranging from Shaquille O'Neal to Lance Armstrong have long twittered about their observations on their respective sports experiences but not always with the approval or to the amusement of their coaches. In April, San Francisco Giants pitchers Barry Zito and Brian Wilson found their Twitter accounts getting the hook over some rather bizarre posts. But those posts paled in comparison to Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, who last season posted a portion of his team's playbook on his personal blog--along with a photo of his penis.
So what is ESPN's angle? A spokesman for the network told The New York Times that, "we want to be smarter about how we do it," adding that Bucher's "interpretation of the policy is mistaken."
As for Bucher, he seems to have no plans to abandon Twitter. "My guess is I can still tweet about my vacation/car shopping, etc. Which I will do, if I can."