When we asked NFL spokesman Greg Aiello about Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco’s stated intent to post updates to Twitter during games, Aiello’s reaction (essentially, “we’ll get back to you”) demonstrated the wild-west feel of this new and burgeoning social-networking technology.
Aiello later told us that, to the chagrin of Ochocinco, the league currently prohibits the use of cell phones or wireless devices from the sideline area during games, and that the league otherwise is reviewing the issue.
On Friday, Commissioner Roger Goodell told the Los Angeles Times that the league will soon make an official announcement regarding its Twitter rules, via an update to the NFL’s current policies regarding the use of electronic devices.
We’re told that the league generally prohibits the use of any information-gathering equipment that may be used as a coaching aid. The current rule encompasses cell phones, PDAs, and computers of any kind. The ban applies to the sidelines, the coaching both, the locker room, and any other club-controlled areas on game day.
The difference here, in our view, is that posting updates on Twitter involves no gathering of information. However, the problem is that, by introducing into the locker room devices from which Twitter updates could be made, for example, during halftime, the possibility of the devices being used to gather information arises.
So the safest course for the league and its teams would be to instruct players to stay away from Twitter from the moment they arrive at the stadium on game day until the moment they officially have cleared the building.
It still leaves plenty of time for potentially compelling interaction with fans — from the airplane to and/or from road games, on the bus to and/from the stadium, and from the hotel room when a player is dealing with insomnia the night before a big game.
Though that might not be enough for Ochocinco, we think it’s the most the league is going to allow.