There is no doubt the NFL adopts a “Band of Brothers” mentality. It makes perfect sense; only these players understand the physical and emotional stress endured on a weekly basis. This stress helps form a nearly unbreakable bond amongst teammates competing for the same cause.
This is why it was curious to see a news story about NFL player Jonathan Martin leaving his team due to bullying from other players. Certainly rookie hazing happens in the NFL. However, all would agree that it used to be very rare for a story like this to end up in the mainstream media. I say this because bullying and other “behind closed doors” practices are becoming more transparent thanks in part to social and digital media.
Content is king in today’s media and when Sunday came this story quickly made headlines as ESPN, NFL Network and countless blogs used it to help fill 5-10 hours of coverage leading up to the day’s NFL games. What was once a Miami Dolphin internal matter that would likely have resulted in a suspension for Incognito, quickly became a Social firestorm that will more than likely end his career and call for a much deeper investigation of NFL teams and their policies.
Incognito took Twitter by storm Sunday morning to defend himself against accusations made by ESPN, particularly Adam Schefter. Schefter, known for his breaking news, tweeted a link to an ESPN article-mentioning Incognito as the cause of Joseph Martins team departure. Today, Schefter has followed up by sending out 5 separate tweets to his nearly 2.6 million followers detailing the exact content of a voice mail from Incognito to Martin. Part of this voice mail discusses Incognito’s angry reaction to seeing information on Martin’s twitter account.
Adam Schefter is highly regarded as one of, if not the most informed NFL reporter. He consistently uses Twitter as his medium of choice for breaking news. His tweets make waves not just with his followers but also with the tens of millions who see his message retweeted. Incognito on the other hand, did himself no favors with his barrage of angry tweets. He would have been better off simply pointing those curious to the Miami Dolphins team statement, which he ended up doing after he deleted the multiple tweets in his rant. Unfortunately, this was after mainstream media outlets saw the tweets and created content around them.
Hazing in the NFL is a common practice, one often shrugged off by casual observers. Richie Incognito had an opportunity to use his digital brand to help diffuse a bad and embarrassing situation. Instead, he ended up fast-forwarding his own free fall by taking an aggressive and defensive stance on the topic. With the spotlight on him, Richie could have used Twitter as a platform for a heartfelt apology or a standard response keeping the matter within control of the Dolphins. While his 40k plus followers pale in comparison to Schefter, the media spotlight would have had his message distributed to all of the right channels. Incognito may have even received more followers for the act. Instead his response to Schefter was ill conceived, curt and came off as more bullying.
Social Media outlets are an extension of your own personal brand. In times of crisis management they can be your biggest asset or an accelerant to your downfall. It is important to be educated on the difference because once your response hits the Internet; there is no turning back.