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Major League Baseball releases its social media policy — and it’s pretty good

Mar 14, 2012, 4:00 PM EDT

Social Media

Part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement reached last November was the implementation of a social media policy for players. They didn’t come up with one, actually, but they said they were going to.  Now they have, and it was just forwarded to me.

It’s in two parts, one for major leaguers and one for minor leaguers. It was accompanied by an explanatory memo.  Here are some highlights, starting with the memo to all players on 40-man rosters, which starts out in a surprisingly refreshing way:

While having a Social Media policy is important to protecting the interests of everyone involved in promoting the game, we hope that you will not view this policy as a blanket deterrent to engaging in social media. MLB recognizes the importance of social media as an important way for players to communicate directly with fans. 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 that your efforts on social media will help bring fans closer to the game and have them engaged with baseball, your club and you in a meaningful way.

Given the trend in the NFL and especially in college sports of teams and coaches strongly discouraging the use of social media and even banning it in some instances, this is pretty spiffy.  The memo goes on to tell players that they should use social media to interact with fans and to work on charity and promotional stuff.

The memo goes on to tell players (a) that just because you’re using your smart phone doesn’t mean that what you say on social media is private; and (b) to think before you tweet or post or whatever, because a statement on social media is no different than something said in a press conference.

This is simple yet essential and I’ve been saying it for years. Almost all of the hand-wringing about social media out there is based on it being new and different and scary and oh my stars and garters.  It’s not. Think of the Internet or your smart phone as a big microphone placed in the middle of town square and everything you say into it is heard by everyone.  It’s that simple, and I’m glad to see MLB and the MLBPA recognizing this rather than demonizing an entire swatch of human interaction simply because it’s new.

The policy itself is more of a legal document, but it basically consists of a list of ten prohibitions:

  • Players can’t make what can be construed as official club or league statements without permission;
  • Players can’t use copyrighted team logos and stuff without permission or tweet confidential or private information about teams or players, their families, etc.;
  • Players can’t link to any MLB website or platform from social media without permission;
  • No tweets condoning or appearing to condone the use of substances on the MLB banned drug list (which is everything but booze, right?);
  • No ripping umpires or questioning their integrity;
  • No racial, sexist, homophobic, anti-religious, etc. etc. content;
  • No harassment or threats of violence;
  • Nothing sexually explicit;
  • Nothing otherwise illegal.

That’s it.  Not terribly restrictive, especially considering that many employers’ rules about this sort of thing are way more harsh.  I don’t get the prohibition against linking MLB sites — note: you’re gonna want them to do this, MLB; it will be good for you — but everything else makes sense.

Also note: no ban about ripping the media. So that should be fun.

Finally, there is an enforcement clause saying that anyone who violates these rules is subject to discipline from the commissioner. Which, yeah, of course.

I’m guessing that social media experts who think more about this kind of thing than I do will find some fault or weirdness here. But to my two eyes — two eyes that read an awful lot of social media each day — this seems like a totally reasonable and smart policy.

And one which, in its encouragement of players to use social media is downright refreshing.

  1. dondada10 - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    Good to see baseball encouraging the players to interact with the fans. I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t share Logan Morrison’s great hair day.

  2. Sullivan - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    A player can’t link to MLB websites? What if the page/site is set up with “share” buttons and such? Is permission implied in that case?

  3. okwhitefalcon - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    Is trolling for chicks encouraged?

    • El Bravo - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:26 PM

      It certainly isn’t discouraged!

      • okwhitefalcon - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:38 PM


        Ballplayers banging hoodrats on the road is timeless tradition, anything that helps said hoodrats gain more access should be encouraged.

    • chadjones27 - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:43 PM

      Yes, but you have to provide them a gift basket.

      • afirst916 - Mar 14, 2012 at 6:11 PM

        Or at least a signed ball

  4. El Bravo - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    Braun pee

  5. IainRWB - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    The no linking rule makes no sense. Whoever works for MLB’s SEO department must be cursing that one.

  6. amhendrick - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    “I don’t get the prohibition against linking MLB sites.”

    I would guess that there will be some kind of blanket permission given, and that this is in there just to establish the principal that MLB controls this stuff.

    • umrguy42 - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:51 PM

      I don’t know if they’d give a blanket permission to everything, but they may want more granularity. So for example they might get a memo saying “hey, the All Star balloting? yeah, totally cool if you link that.” But something else (no, don’t know what) might not be ok, especially if say, it’s something under development that they’re waiting to “unveil”, as it were.

    • natstowngreg - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:39 PM

      It has to be the lawyers’ fault. Yeah, that’s it.

    • quintjs - Mar 15, 2012 at 2:31 AM

      I think it also may have something to do with separation. Players will get into trouble on twitter, it has happened and will happen again. The league probably doesn’t want official league logos, and links on their feeds when they do. It is creating a gap so it a players twitter account who happens to play MLB and that’s it. The reason why many other organizations have harsh rules is to prevent the linking of a organization to the offensive comment.

  7. wonkypenguin - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    A follow-up memo will be out tomorrow. “You are all hereby granted permission to link to MLB sites.”

  8. dodger88 - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    Curious, is there anything about using social media during games?

    • - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:15 PM

      Since Brad Keselowski tweeted during a race, I was wondering the same thing. It would add to the fan experience if they did that.

      Say what you want about NASCAR. I thought they were pretty out front with the social media thing. All of their drivers, and crew members have their twitter handles on the back of their firesuits. And they did release a statement saying it enourages drivers to tweet…during red flags.

      • natstowngreg - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:48 PM

        They have logos for half the corporations in America on their firesuits. And their cars. At least, that’s the impression I get from what little NASCAR I’ve watched.

        To a lesser extent, this also happens in soccer. Happened on a game the other evening on the idiot box and tried to figure out who was playing. Took a while, because “Fly Emirates” was playing “Fly Emirates.” Finally, the announcers informed me that Arsenal was playing AC Milan. Then I changed channels.

        Seems like the more advertisements you put on something, the less useful each individual ad is. And the more difficult it is to figure out for whom to root. Some MBA student has probably done research on this. Makes me appreciate the lack of advertising on MLB uniforms.

      • - Mar 15, 2012 at 9:36 AM

        I did that research as an undergrad. Sponsoring sports teams creates an extremly loyal “fanbase” for your product. You get more exposure for less money sponsoring a race team than buying ad time on the network.

        That was several years ago when ESPN would announce the sponsor with the drivers name, now FOX and ABC won’t announce a drivers primary sponsor unless the sponsor also pays the Network. Same thing with the race title sponsor. If you ever see a race announced as “Sprint Cup Racing at Talladega” that means the title sponsor didn’t pony up to the Network. Where back in the say it was the “Winston 500” and was advertised as such.

        The Japanese Baseball Leagues are set up much more like NASCAR and Premire League Soccer. I’m suprised MLB, NBA, and NFL haven’t gone down that route. They’ve gone down every other route to make a buck.

      • Ashley Glatz - Mar 16, 2012 at 10:10 AM

        the NHL has a time restriction before and after games. I’m somewhat surprised the MLB didn’t include this.

  9. Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Mar 14, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    “No racial, sexist, homophobic, anti-religious, etc. etc. content”

    Anyone know if Luke Scott has a twitter account?

    • CJ - Mar 15, 2012 at 9:11 AM

      not anymore!

  10. chiadam - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Although I deeply despise Twitter, I do enjoy the hilarity of watching athletes try and use it. Someone says something stupid, blames media for twisting the words he clearly wrote, and then blames it all on hackers. It’s like watching a monkey knife-fight: the participants are wielding a dangerous weapon with little skill or regard for what they’re doing.

    • racksie - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:12 PM

      Monkey, knife fight? I have a new band name. Thanks!

      • foreverchipper10 - Mar 15, 2012 at 11:03 AM

        Monkey knife fight is a song by Minus the Bear.

      • racksie - Mar 16, 2012 at 12:05 AM

        Guess they must be one on those PBR drinking, trucker hat wearing bands that completely blow. With a really dumb name.

    • gabrielthursday - Mar 15, 2012 at 12:07 AM

      Right, because smart, on-the-rise guys in responsible professions totally get it.

      • CJ - Mar 15, 2012 at 9:14 AM

        I think you just implied politics was a “responsible profession”. How do you mean?

        Like when your parents wanted you to grow up to be “responsible” (doubtful)? Or like holding somone “responsible” for doing something, usually in a negative context (much more likely)?

  11. The Rabbit - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    You can’t watch the Mariners’ commercials at this site. (Bob Harkins’ post) You have to go to You Tube.
    I’m thinking that the people in charge of MLB’s Advanced Media may not actually have a grasp how this new fangled world wide web works. Hackers will do what hackers will do. Increased links will not make a difference.

    BTW-CBS did not ban “your logo” when we (the first unofficial HBT fantasy league) posted it there. I wonder if Heyman can block our entire league?

  12. Pierre Cruzatte - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    No explicit mention of tweeting during games? Strikes me as odd and awesome.

  13. Francisco (FC) - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    You had a list of ten prohibitions and did not begin each one in biblical fashion? lost opportunity there Craig

  14. afirst916 - Mar 14, 2012 at 6:12 PM

    If Elijah Dukes had a Twitter account, I’m sure he just deleted it

  15. cur68 - Mar 14, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    Frankly, that list looks like the HBT rules of engagement for commenting. Maybe you could sue them for ripping you off Craig?

  16. professorperry - Mar 14, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    MLB has been ahead on all kinds of internet issues, especially streaming radio then TV. Not surprising to see them get this pretty right. (and paved the way to be courageous.

    That said, I’m surprised they don’t make players get an MLB-twitter account that feeds back into their property somehow.

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