Affects of Social Media in American Football

Social media is a powerful tool that can do just as much harm as it can good. Social media promotes conversations about anything that people will have a voice about. Athletes have a lot of power on social media because of their platform and the way they are viewed in the public. Everything they do and say is watched closely by millions of people even if they never post anything on social media. Most recently the NFL has seen social media as a way to interact with the fanbase while covid is still in effect. Athletes have a different way of using social media for their own personal gain like TJ Watt posting on Twitter that he is going to the Arizona Cardinals or JuJu Smith’s Tik Toks. Both generate a lot of buzz for the league, their team, and themselves. The world of sport in age of mass media has been transformed from nineteenth century amateur recreational participation to late twentieth century spectator technology and business (Rowe, 2004)

Social media changed the way that the NFL was viewed by its fanbase. If the NFL was a man, it would be a big muscular man that is scared of nothing, but social media has brought the NFL into the modern world. Online media platforms changed the way the NFL operates because they realized the financial gain of having a strong media presence. They can reach new demographics with very little financial loss to help grow their brand through these social media outlets. It also gives fans a different perspective about teams, players and the league by offering them images that people wouldn’t normally get a glimpse of. It also helps boost fan engagement on game day by getting the fans involved like creating hashtags for a specific game to help generate a buzz around the event. Fans can also interact with players directly by commenting on one of their favorite players post on social media. Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith understands the power that social media has on him and his fans base. As a result of this he has become a popular figure on Tik Tok. Performing dances prior to matches on the logos of opposing teams which generated a lot of attention around the Steelers and the star player.

JuJu Smith dancing on an opposing teams logo for his Tik Tok page before a game.
JuJu Smith dancing on an opposing teams logo for his Tik Tok page before a game.

Social media can also be detrimental to an organization like the NFL because of it’s large global following. Due to their large audience and ease of access to players through social media, players started to receive life threatening comments from loyal fans. At the time no legal action was taken against fans that made these threats and it might have been because people never took them seriously. Zach Kruse of Bleacher Report sums it up perfectly by adding “Clearly, such behavior has roots in the passion of the sport”. “But such passion also leads to these ridiculous side effects, especially on social media. Some fans are so emotionally attached to one team that a tough loss or season-ending defeat can drastically alter the otherwise rational decision-making process”. as fans use social media to vent their frustrations with players, players also do the same. The most notable one is the case of Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem during an NFL game in response to the injustices that the African American community faces from the police in the United States.

Social media can be used as the bridge between players and fans. Its what turns a normal fan into a fanatic. However, that bridge can lead to a lot of positives like finical gain and exposure on a massive level, but it can also lead to a lot of negative issues like fans making threats towards players. Once you open your life to the world of social media, you are put under a microscope and your every move or thought is being examined by everyone. Understanding the dynamics of communication and sport is, therefore, an essential capability for anyone who wishes to function as an engaged, knowledgeable citizen of a sport-saturated world that they may not have made but must nonetheless inhabit (Rowe, 2012) Understanding social media from a business view point is simple. Promote a product or yourself to the general public and see how people respond to it. However, understanding people that use social media is almost impossible because there are too many variables involved with it. Sports will always struggle to control the way people respond to certain outcomes or how they react to athletes in their league because it’s an uncontrollable tangible that was never taken into account.

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