Social Media and Professional Athletes: Should professional leagues control what athletes post? #J398 #SMLegal

In the wake of the Ray Rice incidents thousands of people have taken to social media to post their thought on the incident. One of those was Paul George, a 23 year-old NBA player from the Indiana Pacers.

George’s tweet on the Ray Rice incident read, “Keep it 100 lets act on this police violence like we actin on this Ray Rice case! Stay strong homie!

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Of course the NBA and the Pacers organization were not pleased with George’s tweet and the bad grammar was not the reason why.

The league quickly released a statement calling George’s tweets “thoughtless” and “without regard to the subject of domestic violence and its seriousness in society.”

The NBA also made it clear they will not condone or tolerate remarks of this nature.

Nba commisioner
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Retrieved from nydailynews.com

Social media has become a place of authentic communication between a superstar athlete and their fans. However, it has also evolved into a PR land mine for professional leagues. Especially when athletes share their thoughts on current controversial issues.

This causes this question to arise, should professional leagues like the NBA control what their athletes post on social media in order to avoid a PR nightmare?

The answer to this question is in the collective bargaining agreements each league commissioner signs with their player unions. The collective bargaining agreements or CBA, governs how and what players can be disciplined for and what restrictions can be imposed on them.

The CBA gives league commissioners the power to implement a rule as long as it does not affect the players’, “wages, hours, and other terms and condition of employment.” If they do, commissioners are in danger of committing an unfair labor practice.

In recent years it has become increasingly difficult for commissioners to determine what restrictions or rules relate to “conditions of employment.” Especially when it comes to relating actions that occur in a players private life or home.

A league commissioner under the current CBA agreements cannot fully control what players do on social media. They can implement a fine and ask players to remove the public post but legally that is all they can do to avoid a legal battle with an athlete.

To prevent a PR nightmare the best option for a professional sports league is to educate their athletes, implement specific social media guidelines and hope their players also use a bit of their common sense.

Friedman, D. (n.d.). Social Media In Sports: Can Professional Sports League Commissioners Punish ‘Twackle Dummies’?. Digitalcommons. Retrieved September 12, 2014, from http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1007&context=pipself

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