NBA commissioner David Stern told Yahoo! Sports on Thursday the league will soon follow the NFL in announcing Twitter guidelines and other social media restrictions for its players and coaches.
“Obviously, there is a happy medium between tweeting before the game and tweeting from our bench during the game,” Stern said by phone. “You want to make sure that pop culture doesn’t intrude on what brought us here, which is the game, and that we show the right respect for the game.”
The NFL announced its own guidelines on Monday by restricting players, coaches and football operations personnel – or anyone representing them – from using social media networks like Twitter and Facebook from 90 minutes before kickoff to the end of traditional media interviews after games. NFL game officials are banned from using social media at all times.
Stern described the NBA’s guidelines as “nothing too serious.”
“We just need to make sure when it’s OK to Tweet and when it’s not OK to Tweet so it at least focuses around the game,” he said. “It would look unusual for a guy sitting on the bench to pick up his cell phone, and I think we can agree that he probably shouldn’t be writing e-mails. It’s not about Twitter; it’s about the line of communication. That’s what we’re focusing on.
“We’re happy to let it play out to see if it merits all the attention that it’s getting. We don’t want to overreact.”
National Basketball Players Association spokesperson Dan Wasserman said the union would reserve comment until the league officially introduces its guidelines. But Wasserman did express concern that individual teams also could issue their own restrictions, which could conflict with those of the league.
One Western Conference executive said his team already planned to give its players a set of guidelines upon their arrival at training camp later this month.
“We’ve had discussions regarding the development of a team policy that would not interfere with a player’s ability to dialogue with fans via social networking, but would deter or prohibit such dialogue from taking place during ‘business hours’ at and around the workplace, time surrounding games, practice, team-related events, etc.,” the executive said. “We would also attempt to address the matter of our players utilizing social network vehicles to release team-related news and business information.”
Detroit Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva(notes) made headlines last season while playing for the Milwaukee Bucks when he tweeted at halftime of a game. Bucks coach Scott Skiles ordered Villanueva not to do it again. Cleveland Cavaliers center Shaquille O’Neal(notes) used his Twitter account to give away tickets in Phoenix last season – and take shots at Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. O’Neal now has more than 2.1 million followers on his Twitter account.
Still, the rapid escalation of social networking among players has some team executives concerned. Boston Celtics free-agent guard Stephon Marbury(notes) recently hosted a bizarre 24-hour live webcast in which, among other things, he admitted to smoking marijuana. Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley(notes) also recently posted a picture that contained a couple of suspicious-looking baggies, then tweeted, “Feelin like it’s not worth livin!!!!!!! I’m done.” The incident preceded news that Beasley had been admitted to a Houston rehabilitation facility.
Stern said the Beasley and Marbury incidents concerned him, but he also admitted the league can’t issue a blanket restriction on how players use social media networking when they’re away from their teams.
“You can’t stop them,” Stern said. “It may not be the smartest thing they ever did. But league-wide we have to place a line in what they can and cannot do. We’re looking for the things not to regulate.
“People are going to do unwise things. You might not like what you see, but that doesn’t mean you can go around telling people they can’t engage in the activities that yield [those posts]. Players do videos, players are on YouTube, players are instant messaging, players are tweeting, players are on Facebook. They are just like everyone else. They are allowed to do that. The question is judgment and discretion. You can’t legislate that.”