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Friday, December 14, 2012
Social media: Fines become commonplace

By Maria Burns Ortiz
Special to ESPN.com

Gregg Popovich & Stephen Jackson
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich yells toward shooting guard Stephen Jackson.
San Antonio Spurs forward Stephen Jackson was fined $25,000 by the NBA this week for a “hostile tweet” directed at Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka. Jackson deleted the tweet in which he promised to go after “serg Abaka” and then apologized to the Thunder forward for the harsh words.

Jackson is just the latest athlete to be hit with a fine this year. Social media fines as a form of reprimand date all the way back to 2009.

Maria Burns Ortiz logo
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was among the very first people in sports to be slapped with a fine for online comments and then observed: “can't say no one makes money from twitter now. the nba does" on his Twitter page.

The NBA isn’t the only one. From MLS to MLB, the English Premier League to NASCAR, a lengthy list of athletes in 2012 have found out just how much a hastily typed 140 characters can cost. Some leagues are more pricey than others. (And to be fair, the money goes to either charitable or other efforts to expand the sport – not into the actual league’s coffers.)

Last year, the league slapped Miami Heat owner Micky Arison with a (reported) $500,000 fine for comments he made on Twitter during the lockout. The bill was actually a bargain considering earlier reports stated the league would fine coaches $1 million for even retweeting players during the lockout.

No one has neared that mark this year, but Jackson isn’t the only basketball player forced to open his wallet.

New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith was forced to shell out $25,000 after posting “inappropriate pictures” in March.

Juan Mata
Chelsea defender Ashley Cole takes the top spot for social media fines in 2012.
Meanwhile, after some direct messaging gone wrong, Amar’e Stoudemire was hit with a $50,000 fine for insulting a fan.

But on the social media scene, soccer dominates. Eight of the top 10 most followed teams are European soccer clubs, and five of those teams play in the English Premier League.

The Football Association, English football’s governing body, has handed down more fines than anyone.

Chelsea defender Ashley Cole takes the top spot for social media fines in 2012, having to pay $145,000 after he directly insulted the FA.

Cole was also central to another of the FA’s biggest fines of 2012. The governing body hit Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand with a $71,000 fine after referencing Cole in a racially charged tweet.

By comparison, Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong’s $10,000 fine this summer for improper conduct after lashing out at a critic on Twitter seems like a bargain.

The FA has made major efforts to crack down on homophobic comments, resulting in a number of social media sanctions. In March, the FA fined four players for Twitter comments with fines ranging from $2,000 to $24,000.

NASCAR driver and Twitter star Brad Keselowski made headlines for both his creative use of Twitter while racing and his continued use of Twitter while driving. An in-race image Keselowski tweeted during the Daytona 500 went viral, but it also earned him a warning from NASCAR. When he tweeted from the Phoenix International Raceway under a red flag nine months later, Keselowski was slapped with a $25,000 fine.

While Keselowski’s fine generated the most attention of any social media-related racing fine, the Sprint Cup driver got off easy. In 2010, Denny Hamlin cited Twitter comments as the reason NASCAR hit him with a $50,000 fine.

Not all social media fines are so hefty.

Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez was hit with a whopping $750 fine for posting a message to the Kansas City Royals that the league office deemed to be “reckless.”

In the NFL, the trend seems to be using Twitter to complain about fines more than being fined for use of Twitter.

Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas tweeted about his amusement over the #15kfine the NFL hit him with after a hit on Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

One of the NFL’s most vocal Twitter users, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, took to the site earlier this week after being handed a $5,250 fine for wearing a Post-it note supporting Ray Guy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, posting, “My favorite part of the fine email from the NFL - they end it with ‘sincerely’. It's the little touches that let you know they care.”

T.J. Lang
T.J. Lang's replacement ref tweet was retweeted 98,000 times.
Ironically, Packers guard T.J. Lang – who posted one of 2012’s best sports and social media fine tweets -- was not fined for his controversial and much-retweeted replacement referees tweet in which he called on the NFL to fine him following the much-discussed Green Bay-Seattle game.

World Baseball Classic and the World Wide Web

Major League Baseball’s Fan Cave will be going global during the World Baseball Classic. A representative of each nation in the 16-team tournament will watch every game and chronicle the experience via social media. When a country is eliminated from the tournament, the nation’s “Cave Dweller” will be sent home as well. Fans can apply through Jan. 11 to represent their country in the Cave.

Elsewhere in the social mediasphere

The San Francisco 49ers suspended Brandon Jacobs after the running back posted a series of tweets complaining about his playing time.

The NBA topped 1 billion views on YouTube.

Following in Chad Johnson’s footsteps, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski shared his social media insights with a class of college students at Emerson College in Boston.

Got a story we should feature? Have a site we should check out? Who's on your must-follow list? Tweet me at @BurnsOrtiz. If your idea gets mentioned in this column, so will you. Follow Playbook on Twitter at @ESPNPlaybook.