13 September ~ Twitter has provided joy to many of thousands of football fans in this technological age. The site acts as a news source as well as a means of bringing players and fans closer together, offering supporters an insight into the world of professional footballers. Whether it be instant score updates, the news that Leon Knight is looking to invest in a mahogany chessboard or Michael Owen sharing his love of professional wrestling, Twitter has the potential to both inform and entertain.

However, for all the brilliance of Twitter, it also provides unfortunate moments where footballers remind us all why they are generally regarded so poorly by the public. Liverpool striker Nathan Eccleston's tweets describing the September 11 terrorist attacks as an "accident" are sadly yet another example of a footballer not thinking before expressing his views. Eccleston compounded his error by writing: "I aint going to say attack don't let the media make u believe that was terrorist that did it."

While Eccleston is entitled to his opinion, he displayed a horrendous lack of judgment, not only through the timing of his messages, on the tenth anniversary of the tragedy, but also by expressing those views to thousands of followers and a worldwide audience. Although the young forward later deleted the posts in question, the damage to his image was caused instantly. The messages provoked anger on Twitter, attracted the attention of the tabloid press and will now be subject to an investigation by his club.

It's easy to draw parallels between Eccleston's actions and those of NFL player Rashard Mendenhall, who caused anger across America with comments he made on Twitter following the death of Osama Bin Laden. Mendenhall later deleted the messages but he still felt the impact of his own words. The posts whipped up a media frenzy, damaging the player's image and costing him at least one lucrative sponsorship deal. The Steelers also moved to disassociate themselves with Mendenhall's views, although he avoided disciplinary action. Other stars have been less fortunate. In 2009, fellow NFL star Larry Johnson was released by the Kansas City Chiefs following a homophobic slur he directed at a heckler on Twitter.

The popularity of Twitter among American footballers has lead to the NFL adopting a social media policy which players must adhere to. However, at present, this simply amounts to a ban on stars tweeting during games. With an increasing number of footballers in this country stirring up controversies on social networks, either clubs or the FA may soon be forced to act. If a footballer cannot be trusted to think of the consequences before they post their opinions, it is perhaps only a matter of time before someone takes that decision out of their hands. Pete Ellender

Comments (12)
Comment by phnompenhandy 2011-09-13 14:55:20

"If a footballer cannot be trusted to think of the consequences before they post their opinions, it is perhaps only a matter of time before someone takes that decision out of their hands"

Which would be such a shame. These days when media wonks coach players into utterly bland soundbites, twitter is the only medium by which players can connect with their fans in an honest, unsanitised way. Let them express their views, and live or die by them - determined by the fans, not the suits.

Comment by jonmid 2011-09-13 15:08:57

Eccleston's remarks were stupid but no worse than some of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists and he should also serve as a warning to otbher footballers

Comment by Coral 2011-09-13 15:19:41

"a footballer cannot be trusted to think of the consequences before they post their opinions" So it is fine to have opinions and we encourage it, but if people say those views we have to jump all over them? Footballers should be allowed to say what they want to as many people as they want. If people get offended then they can say why and argue with the person but the original views should not be supressed because the majority of people do not agree with it. Freedom of speech should not be curtailed on Twitter as it should not be anywhere else. And aside from anything else, as has been said, it is nice to hear what people really think or else what is the point of Twitter? Twitter should be an insight to what footballers really think, not what footballers want you to think they really think. The general "outrage" at what people say is getting tedious at best and at worst will eventually supress anyone who says anything that is not acceptable. And so ends my rant

Comment by Paul Rowland 2011-09-13 16:05:25

Er, what's Twitter?


Comment by jameswba 2011-09-13 16:52:06

Some good points here. My own instinct is that Twitter has had the highly undesirable effect of elevating some of its users every mundane action or passing, uneducated thought into matters of huge importance.

And, frankly, if Michael Owen's love of wrestling is an example of an interesting footballers' relevation, well, there must be a hell of a lot of anodyne nonsense to wade through. (Leon Best's wish for a mahogany chessboard at least has some individuality.)

Also, you get the impresion that, just as some would have you believe that events like the 1848 revolutions couldn't possibly have happened because Twitter wasn't around back then to spread the tidings, so footballers had no means of communicating with their fans before social networks appeared on the scene. Not so. In the good old days, there used to be wonderful things called supporters clubs. At WBA, the supporters club had branches all over the Black Country and Birmingham, most of which got visits from players or Albion employees every month or so. Real communication, with no computer or mobile phone in sight. Of course, the professionalism of the modern age (well, Gary Megson in our case) spelled the death knell of much of this.

Soon, footballers will all have to attend Twitter awareness courses, then they'll be forbidden from using Twitter altogether. A shame perhaps, but it'll be the fault of those who hang on every pointless word these young men utter.

Comment by Jongudmund 2011-09-13 16:55:21

Er, who's Nathan Eccleston?


Comment by Janik 2011-09-13 17:05:15

"it also provides unfortunate moments where footballers remind us all why they are generally regarded so poorly by the public."

Football is irrelevant to 9/11. Ecclestone's profession has nothing to do with him being a conspiracy nutcase, and him being so doesn't reflect badly on footballers as a group.

Comment by donedmundo 2011-09-13 17:49:20

Reminds me of the adage that it is better to say nothing and be thought stupid than to open your mouth and confirm it.

Comment by fieryelephant 2011-09-14 07:48:28

My team were recently linked with a player from a decent (pro)conference side. Had a look at his twitter feed only to find that he was using it to try and flog off old pairs of his boots. Gold.

Comment by robw 2011-09-14 10:37:05

Nathan Eccleston has an image?

Comment by JimDavis 2011-09-16 13:20:25

I'm confussed. You seem to be saying he is entitled to an opinion as long as he doesn't share it. Was Eccleston's horrendous lack of judgement the fact he had an opinion or the fact that is was different to your own?

I for one prefer Twitter to be a place of free speech for all. A warts and all world, where I can find out that Larry Johnson is a person with homophobic view and Nathan Eccleston and I differ on our views of 9/11 is a more informed world than the one which relies on view of these two men filtered through PR machines.

The problem with Twitter and blogs etc that I have is that rather than people who read things they do not agree with coming back with reasoned counter arguments, everything tends to descend pretty quickly into “loudest voice/biggest cock” type grand standing.

Comment by trevorw 2011-09-16 19:49:27

Full marks to Eccleston for having ANY political view. It is more important, in my view, that footballers be role models for intelligent behaviour than parade their love affair with material objects.

Strange how many in this thread accept the official version of what happened at 9/11. I assume you all believed Tony Bliar when he talked of "Weapons of Mass Destruction"??

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