For an NFL Athlete, Is Social Networking "The Wrong Move"?

We've all seen it happen numerous times in the past. Some player (*cough* Rashard Mendenhall *cough*) is stewing at home during their downtime and decides to take their anger public. With the widespread use of Twitter and other social networking sites by both NFL athletes and their legions of fans, a single ignorant or insensitive comment has the ability to be broadcast to thousands of individuals instantaneously.

The resulting negative press can not only shed a bad light on the individual player, but the team as a  whole. This fact has not escaped Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who, in the wake of Mendenhall's controversial tweets on the death of Osama Bin Laden, claimed that "social media is ruining the world."

While that may be a bit of an overstatement, it has certainly affected the lives and financial statuses of many players around the league today. Just recently, Titans receiver Kenny Britt got himself in hot water for writing inflammatory statements about Roger Goodell on his Facebook account (although he now claims that he was hacked). Even some Eagles have gotten themselves in trouble, with Todd Herremans receiving flak back in August for what some believed to be an insensitive comment towards homosexuality.

In an interview yesterday with ESPN, Donovan McNabb, who has been one of the few NFL athletes to shun Twitter, spoke out against the site.

More after the jump...

"First of all I'm not a fan of Twitter. Nothing against their program or what they have, but as an athlete I think you need to get off of Twitter. All these social networks of you tweeting about you watching a game when you wanna be playing in it but you're mad you're not playing in it, so you're gonna criticize someone that's playing in it. I don't believe that that's the right deal. That's not professional by any means and, you know, we're all in a fraternity, so if you see a guy who's struggling, this isn't the time to jump on him or kick him while he's down, you know, because that same guy will come against you and kinda blast your team out the water. So I think for an athlete to be Twittering is the wrong move, it's one that [athletes should] leave to the fans and let them comment on certain things, but athletes need to get off Twitter."

Twitter the other social networking sites have long been a two-edged sword for their users. One one hand, they give fans the ability to connect directly to their favorite athletes, as well as watch rivalries develop between players like LeSean McCoy and Osi Umenyiora. However, in the hands of an irresponsible or irrational mind, sites like Twitter can become an alienating and distracting tool. Just ask Shawn Andrews.

However, as an NFL fan who uses social networking on an almost-too-regular basis, I believe that Twitter can be a powerful and important tool in shaping and developing the image of an NFL player. By no means should the NFL limit themselves and their growth by banning their athletes from using it, as McNabb hints. There just needs to be a certain degree of responsibility taken by each player who decides to throw their opinions up on the internet.

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