In our society, rules are often created to ensure boundaries for extreme behavior are in place before the acts occur. Such is the case with Major League Baseball and social media.
“All Players will be subject to a policy governing the use of Social Media.”
Like most of the new CBA, the details governing use of Twitter and Facebook would follow. Earlier this week, MLB released their policy to all 40-man roster players.
The opening statement seems simple enough, but of course, the devil is in the details.
“We encourage you to connect with fans through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms. Along with MLB’s extensive social media activities, we hope your efforts on social media will bring fans closer to the game and have them engaged with baseball, your club and you in a meaningful way.”
Among the policy elements are these common sense-type items.
Players cannot post anything:
- That condones the use of drugs banned by MLB.
- Sexually explicit, racist or sexist.
- Disparaging one’s national origin or disability.
- Illegal by federal or state law.
- That threatens or harasses others.
The challenge will be in who and how violations will be interpreted. Club and MLB officials will be even more busy than before monitoring their employees’ social media behavior. Will union officials immediately spring to the defense of players when the inevitable gray areas are entered?
Any appeal process is unclear, but it will certainly be needed – if there are penalties involved in policy violations. This is not spelled out as far as I can tell. MLB already seems to keep a stable of arbiters busy in other elements of their business. Could this become another?
Apparently to protect the owners, this item is also included.
- Players must have permission before making statements that could be interpreted as “official,” linking to a MLB website, or using copyrighted team logos, names, photos or other material.
It seems odd for players not to be able to link to stories on the official MLB website.
It sort of reminds me of the ever-present warning repeated during every radio and television game for decades now. It is one we can probably all recite by heart, sort of like a perverted MLB pledge of allegiance.
“Any rebroadcast, reproduction or other use of this game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is strictly prohibited.”
Anyway, back to social media. The items that govern on-field activities are crystal clear in comparison to sex, drugs and harassment. These apply to all officials, including coaches and managers.
They are not allowed to post to social media:
- 30 minutes before a game
- During a game
- Until at least 10 minutes after a game ends
They are also not allowed to question umpires’ calls via social media.
In summary, it is good that MLB accepts reality and encourages players to use social media to interact with fans. Players will continue to have to be smart in their actions to remain clear of the new regulations. For most, that should not be a problem. It is the few outliers for which MLB had to create this policy and about whom they must worry.