Tweet You Hear Isn't Always The Real Thing

Team, Rivals, Nfl Try To Deal With Phony Accounts, Other Social-media Issues

August 12, 2009|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,edward.lee@baltsun.com

Twitter is not for everyone. Just ask Troy Smith.

The Ravens quarterback said he does not "tweet." More pointedly, Smith said he is not the author behind "TroySmith10," an account that used questionable language and disparaged Baltimore.

"That was kind of a little thing where somebody else had obviously put my name on there," Smith said after a recent training camp practice at McDaniel College in Westminster. "When we got to camp, the coaching staff said something to me about it, and I had my people look into it, and ever since that, I've let my people do what they're supposed to do, and it hasn't been used since we got here."

The NFL and its teams are concerned about players having Twitter accounts created without their knowledge. They worry about players using Twitter during games and others popping off about the league and teams. Some teams are bothered by media members tweeting from practices. And NFL coaches and team officials are always afraid of information being leaked and having game plans fall into enemy hands.

The Ravens don't plan to block their players from using Twitter. The NFL says it supports the 300 or so players who tweet and the league has 807,473 followers on its Twitter site, but it has banned in-game tweets. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (nflcommish) tweets on occasion.

Other Ravens have seen accounts created without their consent. Quarterback Joe Flacco (Jflacc), tight end Todd Heap (toddheap), offensive coordinator Cam Cameron (camcameron) are supposedly on Twitter, and there are two accounts in linebacker Ray Lewis' name (RayALewis52 and lewisray52).

"We kind of reserve the right to figure this whole thing out, but our mind-set is not to ban Twitter," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It's not to ban any medium."

Several teams - most notably the Miami Dolphins - have told their players to refrain from tweeting. In addition, the Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints have banned media reporting from the practice field via Twitter.

The San Diego Chargers fined cornerback Antonio Cromartie $2,500 for linking the club's "nasty food" to its 14-year absence from the Super Bowl and have banned tweeting from within the team's facility.

Twitter, billed as a real-time communications avenue and a social platform, limits its messages to 140 characters. It does have its supporters. The network figured predominantly during Iran's elections, and news of pop singer Michael Jackson's death gathered steam courtesy of Twitter. Even President Barack Obama tweets.

Several Ravens players who tweet said they enjoy using Twitter as a way to connect with friends and fans.

"A lot of fans follow Twitter, and they really want to know what's going on," said cornerback Frank Walker, whose handle is tusk599. "Right now, me and [cornerbacks Domonique] Foxworth and Fabian [Washington] are doing a video log, trying to keep the fans and everybody else in touch with what's going on."

While watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, Washington, who goes by FABEWASH31, recently posted on Twitter that he wanted to buy a shark.

"And I got, seriously, 100 responses," he said. "Some people thought it was cool, some people said, 'You're crazy.' You can get different opinions about different things. If I don't know something, I'll ask a question and you'll get the answer."

When they started, both Washington and Walker used questionable language. However, after an informal meeting with other tweeters like Foxworth (Foxworth24), offensive tackle Jared Gaither (jaredgaither) and cornerbacks Evan Oglesby (evanoglesby) and Lardarius Webb (Lwebb21), they agreed to ban profanity and derogatory terms.

"We had a conversation, and we decided to clean it up," Washington said. "You can still state your opinion in a clean way and come across where kids won't get the wrong impression of what you're trying to say. I think it is a good social network, but we want to clean it up a little, and I have definitely done that."

Harbaugh said the coaches have reinforced that sentiment with the players and are continually reminding them that impressionable eyes are reading their comments.

"We've made it clear to them that this is public domain," he said. "When you get on Twitter or Facebook, basically it's like having a microphone right there, and that's how you've got to treat it. So however you come across on Twitter, that's how you come across to the public. ... What we like to do is have guys that understand - and are good people first of all - that there are kids out there, and they're reading what you put on there just like you talk into a camera, and treat it with respect."

Even though "TroySmith10" has a profile picture of Smith, the quarterback insisted that he doesn't own the account.

Unlike Tony LaRussa, who filed legal action against Twitter after someone created an account impersonating the St. Louis Cardinals manager, Smith said he has no plans to sue anyone.

"It happens," Smith said. "I got people that did it on Facebook, and I heard they did it with MySpace. It happens."

But is he angry that someone would impersonate him? Smith smiled before answering.

"There was a point in time when people didn't care who I was," he said. "It is what it is."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

To tweet or not to tweet

* Some of the Ravens who say they actively tweet on Twitter:

Cornerback Domonique Foxworth (Foxworth24)

Cornerback Evan Oglesby (evanoglesby)

Cornerback Lardarius Webb (Lwebb21)

Cornerback Frank Walker (tusk599)

Cornerback Fabian Washington (FABEWASH31)

Offensive tackle Jared Gaither (jaredgaither)

* Ravens accounts created without their consent:

Quarterback Joe Flacco (Jflacc)

Quarterback Troy Smith (troysmith10)

Tight end Todd Heap (toddheap)

Linebacker Ray Lewis (RayALewis52 and lewisray52)

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron (camcameron)

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