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Today's #NFL Player In 140 Characters Or Less

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Don't hate the player. Hate the game. Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images.
Don't hate the player. Hate the game. Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images.

Today’s professional football player lives a life that most people will never experience. Enormous salaries, lavish lifestyles and global popularity are just a few of the reasons why fans have become obsessed with NFL players. For decades, a fan’s opportunity to interact with the player was restricted to attending games or random run-ins off the field. For the fan, there was no meaningful access to the player for the most part.

Social media has changed all that. And for the NFL star, it’s been anything but positive.

Social media outlets have allowed fans to interact with professional athletes like never before. A player’s Twitter feed operates like a giant microscope into their world. Into their soul. Every tweet is analyzed, criticized and frequently taken out of context. When a player slips up on Twitter, the world sees it.

But the fan’s online wrath is the least of a player’s worries after an ill-advised Tweet.

Players are essentially brands. Lucrative endorsement deals often trump a player’s salary and can make them global superstars. But with universal stardom comes responsibility. The corporate world is not fond of controversy, so when a player blasts out an offensive tweet, they are immediately devalued on all levels. A fanbase can forgive a controversial athlete — especially if they produce. But corporate sponsors can terminate a relationship overnight.

Social media has done nothing but create a dangerous terrain for NFL stars to navigate. A player’s desire to be heard and sheer impulsivity leads them to erupt like a volcano, which, unfortunately over the Internet, causes havoc. Their attempts to engage in damage control through pre-written apologies come off less sincere than Lance Armstrong. Ironically, that too, is often done over Twitter. With social media encapsulating almost every aspect of our lives, today’s NFL player finds themselves in a vicious cycle of tweets, overreactions and apologies. The game of football has led fans to idolize players, but social media has steered fans to demonize these same players for voicing their mind. For as much as fans would like to get to know their heroes, often they do not live up to their reputation. Players too often do not measure up to their own branding.

Remember when scores used to be settled on the field? In some ways, they still are on gamedays. But Twitter bouts have become just as popular as the on-field battles. When you think about it, it’s borderline embarrassing. If talk is cheap, then what is Twitter smack-talk? It’s certainly not free when a player is passed up on for endorsement deals because of their online foolishness. And whether players want to believe this or not, it’s a harsh reality. Before Aaron Hernandez was cut by the Patriots, he was fired by Muscle Milk.

Social media has changed the whole NFL experience. For better or worse, it will continue to be a staple in our society. For the fan, sites like Twitter have given unprecedented access to players. For the NFL star, social media has elevated their popularity. But evidently, not for the better.