The National Football League, ten days from the start of the 2009 regular season, has rolled out its policy regarding the use of social media (such as Twitter and Facebook) on game days.
Per the release from the league office, the NFL has advised the 32 member teams that coaches, players, and football operations personnel will be permitted, with club permission, to use these devices on game day during specific time periods before and after games.
The prohibited window starts 90 minutes before the game begins and extends after post-game media interviews have concluded.
The phrase “with club permission,” however, allows the teams to (in theory) apply broader rules on the use of social media.
At some point, the matter could become a subject for collective bargaining. (Actually, the NFLPA might contend that the league-imposed policy in and of itself represents a condition of employment that cannot be unilaterally imposed.)
“The use of these sites . . . is not permitted during the game, including halftime,” the release states. “No updates are permitted to be posted by the individual himself or anyone representing him during this prohibited time on his personal Twitter, Facebook or any other social media account.”
The league also has blocked referee Ed Hochuli from tweeting apologies for his next blown call; the policy prohibits NFL game officials and the officiating department from using social media at any time.
There’s also an aspect that applies to the media.
“Longstanding policies prohibiting play-by-play descriptions of NFL games in progress apply fully to Twitter and other social media platforms,” the release states. “Internet sites may not post detailed information that approximates play-by-play during a game. While a game is in progress, any forms of accounts of the game must be sufficiently time-delayed and limited in amount (e.g., score updates with detail given only in quarterly game updates) so that the accredited organization’s game coverage cannot be used as a substitute for, or otherwise approximate, authorized play-by-play accounts.”
But while it will be fairly easy for the league to slam the door on play-by-play accounts posted by the likes of beat writers, accredited national media, and assorted Internet slapdicks like yours truly, we wish the league office the best of luck in keeping Joe Schmoe in Kokomo from trying to become the Twitter and/or USTREAM version of Al Michaels.
And that’s where the rules become unfair and/or unrealistic. Someone sitting in the press box will be prohibited from tweeting a play-by-play account of the game. But the guy or gal sitting only a few feet away in the paid seating area will be able to tweet to his or her heart’s content.
There’s no way that the NFL will be able to police this. Our guess is that, in the end, the league will to stop only those offenders who become the most popular and/or notorious.
All that said, our new friend (and we don’t mean that sarcastically) Chad Ochocinco is on notice — there will be no player tweeting during games.