Has Social Media Changed the Landscape of Professional Sports?
Early last year, something that dominated NFL news outlets was the drama between wide receiver Stefon Diggs and the Minnesota Vikings. What was really interesting about this story was the way in which Diggs chose to start the drama. Diggs sent out a series of cryptic tweets from his Twitter account that seemed to be taking shots at the Vikings. In only a matter of months after Diggs sent the cryptic tweets, he was dealt to the Buffalo Bills.
Adam Schefter on Twitter: “Compensation update: Bills are trading a 1st-round pick, a 5th-round pick, a 6th-round pick and a 2021 4th-round pick for Vikings WR Stefon Diggs and a 2020 7th-round pick, source tells ESPN.” / Twitter
Moral of the story, Diggs used social media to push the Vikings into trading him. This is something that has not been seen in the sports industry until recently, and it is only one example of the role social media now plays in professional sports.
Have social media sites really made an impact on professional sports?
Social media sites have changed multiple aspects of the sports industry. Sports Digest has said that social media has allowed teams to build relationships with the public, allow fans to get instant news alerts for their favorite teams, and even attract new fans to different sports. While these are all seemingly positive changes, social media in sports has not come without negative changes. In 2019, struggling Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, Nelson Agholor, deleted his Instagram account after being put on blast by Eagles fans in the comments of his posts.
Agholor even commented on the abuse he was taking from Eagles fans after a game in 2019, saying “And it is what it is. Everybody’s going to have their opinion because that play was a play that we should’ve connected on.”
Clearly Agholor was frustrated with what people were saying about his play on social media. It might be crazy to think that the general public could get to a pro athlete just through a few nasty Instagram comments, but that is exactly what happened.
How does social media in pro sports affect the everyday person?
According to an article published by Boston University, social media has revolutionized the sports industry, especially for fans. Players are able to directly interact with fans over social media sites like Twitter and Instagram. Before the advent of such sites, pro athletes were viewed as larger than life and hard to interact with. Nowadays, players can reply directly to the common man in the comments of social media posts. While having more open access to players through social media can be a good thing, it can also come with drawbacks. Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets is notorious for getting into spats with fans on Twitter.
Social media even affects fans without player input. Many online fanbases have become forms of tribalism, especially on Twitter, making it harder for more causal fans to become more invested in certain teams or sports.
An expert’s opinion:
Hockey writer and blogger Jake Jensen has worked for websites such as The Athletic and also done freelance work for other social media based NHL blog sites. As an NHL writer, Jensen has seen first hand how social media has affected the NHL specifically.
“For me as a news source and journalist, social media has just really made things so much easier. Instead of having to get press credentials and go through a whole process of steps, now I can just direct message players on Twitter or Instagram, usually with good results” Jensen had to say.
Earlier this year, Jensen was able to get a number of Minnesota Wild prospects to appear on his podcast, simply through just a DM on twitter, something that would not have been remotely possible before social media.
“I think it’s important to note that these athletes use social media just like how you or I would, and it makes it easier to see them as actual people instead of celebrities.” Jensen added.
Much like other journalists, Jensen says he’s also found it harder to keep a following now on social media. People want breaking news and instant gratification, especially hardcore sports fans.
“Obviously you have reporters for every sport that are king, like Adam Schefter in the NFL or Adrian Wojnarowski in the NBA. These guys have massive social media presences, and it can be hard for those of us still trying to break into the industry to compete with that.” Jensen explained.
Will social media continue to change the sports industry?
Social media is not going away anytime soon. As such, athletes, teams, and companies will continue to utilize multiple social media sites to grow their respective sports, by both trying to add to the fanbase and their monetary value. A recent trend in the sports and social media world has been a service called Cameo. Cameo allows people of note to send personalized messages to buyers for a fee. Many athletes have begun using Cameo as a way to interact with fans. Another recent trend among athletes has been Twitch streaming. Twitch allows viewers to watch an individual play video games, and athletes have been taking to Twitch to stream games and promote their brands. As the social media world widens, so do the uses for it in the sports industry.
Why should casual or non sports fans care?
Professional sports are a billion dollar industry. Whether we know it or not, pro sports impact our daily lives, even if we aren’t fans. Athletes are given multi-million dollar contracts to be spokespeople or ambassadors for products or services that we use on a daily basis. Furthermore, careers and jobs of the everyday person could be affected by social media in the sports industry. For example, Houston Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson was recently indicted on criminal charges and much of the evidence came from social media communications between him and his alleged victims. Watson reached out to them because they were massage therapists, and promoted themselves on social media. Social media affecting the sports industry could affect you personally without you even knowing. Simply put, the professional sports landscape has been affected by social media, both positively and negatively.