In the old days, professional sports leagues such as the NFL kept their players at a distance from the media — sure, reporters could interview them after the game, when they’d discuss X’s and O’s, usually in Bear Bryant-fashion, with tight-lipped cliches such as “The key to the game was turnovers” and “I knew we had them, when we picked up their third-down blitz during our two-minute drill.” Then came the era of trash-talk, and players not afraid to provide plenty of material for the other team’s bulletin board.
As late as the mid-1990s, even some local newspapers were afraid to break scandals that tarnish the image of the hometown club. Around that time, the story of the Dallas Cowboys’ “White House” — the residence located near the Cowboys’ training facilities that a number of players rented to party in (in every sense of the word) first broke. But perhaps surprisingly, the local Dallas press was initially gun-shy in reporting the news, as Jeff Pearlman wrote in his best-selling 2008 history of the nineties Cowboys, Boys Will Be Boys:
The first member of the media to write of the White House was the Miami Herald’s Dan Le Batard, who merely mentioned it in passing in a larger piece about partying in the NFL. “The reality is that many teams throughout the league had places like the White House,” says Le Batard. “But the Cowboys were the biggest, baddest, best, and anything they did was vastly more magnetized.” Upon hearing Le Batard’s story, the Dallas media went to work. In truth, many were well aware of the White House and its going-ons, but chose to ignore the story in the name of player-press relations. “Everyone knew about it, but what are you going to do, run a story about the guys cheating on their wives with hookers?” says Rob Geiger, a reporter for KRLD radio in Dallas. “The writers understood not to write about, the radio and TV guys understood not to talk about it, because we’d be vilified by the fans, and locked out by the team.”
It was a gargantuan lapse in news judgment. The White House had everything one craves in a story — sex, drugs, fame, football.
Today with Twitter though, fans are free to read the unvarnished, first draft thoughts of their favorite players, in easily-digestible bite-sized 140-character portions.
What could go wrong?
PITTSBURGH — Rashard Mendenhall has created a stir with comments made on his official Twitter page regarding Osama bin Laden’s death.
The Pittsburgh Steelers running back on Monday tweeted: “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…”
Mendenhall didn’t hold back, even making a reference to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Rashard Mendenhall is the latest example of a player needing to use restraint before posting his thoughts on Twitter, James Walker writes.
The Steelers felt compelled to act. On Tuesday, team president Art Rooney II released a statement.
“I have not spoken with Rashard, so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments. The entire Steelers organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done and we can only hope this leads to our troops coming home soon.”
Mendenhall, who profiles himself as a “conversationalist and professional athlete” on his Twitter page, turned some heads in March, as well, when he supported a comment by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson comparing the NFL to “modern-day slavery.”
“Anyone with knowledge of the slave trade and the NFL could say that these two parallel eachother,” Mendenhall posted at the time.
Mendenhall is coming off a tremendous season, as he led the AFC champions in carries (324), rushing yards (1,273) and rushing touchdowns (13). He has 2,439 yards in three seasons since being drafted in the 2008 first round out of Illinois.
It’s the power of the man’s thumbs that the Pittsburgh Steelers are concerned about though — as ESPN notes, Mendenhall’s string of tweets to his over 13,000 followers “ended around 6 p.m. Monday. He has not tweeted since.”
On the other hand, while Mendenhall is a Truther who sounds remarkably sympathetic to the radical chic stylings of a self-admitted mass murderer, he certainly seems familiar, on some basic level, with Osama bin Laden.
A few other Twitter users, not so much: ”SERIOUSLY? Dozens Of People On Twitter Ask ‘Who Is Osama Bin Laden?’”
Why not simply ask, “what does ‘ironic’ mean?” instead?
Related: Wheels within wheels.