When Cricket Australia encouraged its players to use Twitter, they probably didn’t intend for it to be used as a dating service, but that’s just what Michael Clarke, captain of the Australian cricket team, did. Once again, sports franchises are caught between the advantages of using social media as an advertising tool and the challenges of actually allowing athletes to Tweet.
On the weekend, Clarke started a tweeting storm when he attempted to find rookie Steve Smith a date for the Allan Border Medal Event. Many felt this was not appropriate behavior from the Captain, creating a “frenzy” on Twitter. However, Clarke told his 80, 000 followers to “take a chill pill”, and, when questioned further, responded, “Steve will be selecting, getting to know some people he can take to the AB Medal. I think I have helped him out. He has found a few new friends and we will wait and see what comes of it.”
This is not the first time Clarke has received criticism for his use of social media. In the second Ashes’ Test in Adelaide, he stood his ground and didn’t walk when caught; however, he refused to discuss the event in a press conference, turning instead to Twitter to apologize. However, Clarke blames cricket Australia, “They introduced me to Twitter, organised me to be on Twitter and set it all up for me to get to fans and get as many people watching cricket and supporting cricket as possible.”
Clarke isn’t the first sports’ figure to land himself in hot water due to Tweeting, and he certainly won’t be the last. The big question for sports’ franchises and organizations is: at what point does all publicity become bad publicity? And, perhaps, more important than that questions, is exploring how sport is different from other forms of entertainment and how this difference impacts the use of social media. Unlike film and television, where there is a delay between production and consumption, sport happens in the moment. As such, an athlete’s actions in social media may have a greater impact not just on the twitter-verse, but also on teammates and coaches. It’s all fun and games until someone has to launch an apology campaign on Facebook.