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Social media can be good if its legit

June 27, 2012
By John Mehno ( , The Altoona Mirror

PITTSBURGH - The good thing about social media is it gives players a chance to interact directly with fans.

Come to think of it, that's the bad thing, too.

Amar'e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks got himself into $50,000 worth of trouble with the NBA for using a gay slur while responding to someone who had been following him on Twitter.

It's another instance where players have run afoul of their employers with the reckless use of technology.

Some players stay away from Twitter and Facebook entirely. Others embrace it. Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Jason Grilli enjoys interacting with fans via Twitter.

Others are far less open. Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones says he has a Facebook account, but strictly uses it to stay in touch with family members.

If you find your favorite player on Twitter or Facebook, the first priority is making sure the account is legitimate. It's easy to set up on either of those platforms, where security is minimal.

That's been a problem since social media started to develop. When MySpace was still the rage, people set up pages impersonating star athletes. Their motives sometimes were as benign as playing a prank. In other cases, they were using their fake identities for more sinister goals.

It was happening long before the Internet became popular, but the methods were different.

Local authorities have thick files on cases where individuals claimed to be Steelers players. One guy was pretending to be obscure backup quarterback Brian St. Pierre as a way to impress women.

Social media is more complicated because some players really do use it. The ones who manage it well like Grilli do profit from the experience.

But it takes some restraint to avoid answering critics or getting goaded into fights with trolls. Say the wrong thing and those 140 characters on Twitter can turn into a big fine and a loss of reputation.

Success story

The NHL draft was a positive experience for the Penguins, and a huge hit for the city.

There wasn't a hotel room available for the entire weekend because of the draft. It's estimated the weekend event pumped $9 million into the local economy.

The only bad news is it will be at least 10 years before the draft returns. The NHL likes to spread the riches around.

Mehno can be reached at

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