Manchester United setting a poor example for professional sports in social media

Manchester United of the English Premier Leage, quite possibly the most popular professional sports team in the world, has unilaterally banned its players from maintaining any kind of presence on social networking sites. The motives behind such a move and the team's prominence throughout the world could set a dangerous and stupid example for other professional sports teams.

The organization has already gone as far as having three players remove their Twitter accounts while the Facebook content of three others has been pulled. The article speculates that one of the reasons the team has done this is that, besides not wanting athletes to give out confidential information on the club, the team really wants the team's fans to visit their own online entities instead of those of their players, especially when they're located on third-party sites like Twitter and Facebook. This makes no sense.

While the article is only speculation, it would be extremely unwise to assume that the team's fans will go to their content. If you can, you go to them, especially when your players are doing it for you. Because this is so unintelligent, I have to assume that it's only half the reason as the organization likely wants to avoid any potential controversy caused by athletes communicating directly with fans.

We've seen this in other leagues. The NBA has already lost great NBA personalities Gilbert Arenas and Brandon Jennings from Twitter. Jennings' departure was more self imposed although I'm sure he was wary of causing any uproar with incidents like one where he got into an online argument with a fake Jordan Farmar account. While it wasn't admitted publicly, I'm sure Arena's exit was league-forced.

Whichever reason Man U is going with for banning players from social media, it's wrong. As a fan, you have to hope this decision has no bearing on those of other professional teams, both in the EPL and elsewhere.

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