There was a time when one had to wait for news, if a breaking story happened you had to wait until a journalist wrote a story will all the juicy details. There was also a time when game highlights where caught only on sports center, and stories of the game where shared the next day by those lucky enough to watch the game. Before Twitter and other social media outlets sports stars where hero’s that only existed in a stadium under lights and those lucky enough to be close to them on a personal level where a select few. However with the use of Twitter athletes and sports franchises have capitalized on the instant gratification of sending a tweet. Most sports teams have even started “broadcasting” their games via Twitter, sharing highlights and game updates so that anyone with a smart phone or an Internet connection can be in on the action. With Twitter growing each day athletes and sports teams are using this form of social media to become relatable to fans, by sharing everyday stories, to self promotion, you no longer need a fancy marketing campaign to become a favorable sports star, all you need is a Twitter account. However is it smart to be allowing athletes to have free access to their own Twitter accounts? Or are we just waiting for trouble?

In an article written by Kevin Cacabelos in March of 2011 the use of Twitter by college and professional sports was deeply discussed and a great point was made, “The lack of the middleman leads to this inevitable question: should athletes treat Twitter as if they are talking to the media? Should the same rules apply?” Normally when speaking to media a sports star will use a public relations professional to make sure they a represented well to the public, and unlike the rest of the world when a loved athlete says something questionable people don’t forget. So if they are tweeting without thinking or without realizing they are in a sense talking to the media, then what if they say something that no professional should ever be caught saying or in this case Tweeting?

In this past Olympics we saw trouble brewing as athletes took to tweeting to give their fans an inside look at the games. Greek track star Voula Papachristou was kicked off the Greek Olympic team because of racist tweets. English soccer player Carlton Cole tweeted immigration “jokes” and was fined. NFL player Larry Johnson was suspended due to homophobic slurs made via Twitter. New York Knicks Amare Stoudemire was fined for sending an anti-gay slur to a fan, which then screen shot; the tweet and it went public. All these incidents are proof that even athletes say inappropriate things at times, so should there be someone monitoring every single tweet an athlete chooses to post? Possibly.

However some think that by using Twitter to connect with fans on personal level athletes is actually helping boost sales of team tickets, apparel, merchandise, and even products they endorse. Twitter promotes the relationship between fan and athlete by allowing fans to see athletes in their “real life” settings. By tweeting, retweeting, and following fans an athlete can increase fan and public approval, as long as all their tweets are “politically correct.”

So when it comes down to it the real question is, “Can athletes be trusted to run their own Twitter accounts?” I guess we will soon find out, because it has always been said that the athlete represents the team and there is no “I” in team.