NFL Encourages Players to Tweet During the Pro Bowl in Reversal of Stance

National Football League players at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii are being encouraged to use Twitter during the game, an action that cost one player $25,000 in fines two years ago.

The league will set up a computer on each sideline during the Jan. 29 all-star game for players to go onto the social media website Twitter during television commercials, or when their offensive or defensive unit is not on the field, the NFL said in an e-mailed release. Players are encouraged to interact with fans, teammates and opponents during the game, and can also update on Facebook, league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an e-mail.

The policy is a reversal of the league’s social media rules during preseason, regular season and playoff games, when players are banned from using such websites 90 minutes before kick-off until they finish their postgame media obligations.

“We are always looking for ways to bring fans closer to the game and the players,” McCarthy said in a statement. “The nature of the Pro Bowl enables us to have players tweet during the game.”

The Pro Bowl features teams of players from the American Football Conference and National Football Conference, as voted by fans. This year’s game in Honolulu will feature three former Super Bowl Most Valuable Players -- New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

Players on this year’s Super Bowl teams, the New York Giants and New England Patriots, don’t participate as they prepare for the NFL championship game on Feb. 5.

Fines in 2010

In 2010, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco was fined $25,000 for violating the NFL social media policy and possession of an electronic device when he used Twitter during a preseason game. That same year, Ochocinco’s teammate Terrell Owens was fined $5,000 for using Twitter inside of the 90-minute pre-game window.

All social media posts during the Pro Bowl must be done at the established computers and participation is voluntary. The league has no intention to adopt a similar approach for preseason, regular season or postseason games, McCarthy said.

Last year’s Pro Bowl, televised by Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN, was seen by an average of 13.4 million viewers, the game’s highest ratings since 1997. The 2011 Major League Baseball All- Star Game, by comparison, drew an average of 11 million viewers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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