Thursday, September 9, 2010

New media. Same old story.

I was typing up the last blog post when Dan Ellis quit Twitter. Obviously, my work here tonight is not done.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Dan Ellis made a long announcement through his Twitter feed that he was going to stop microblogging, stating that the uproar he caused among fans was overwhelming and that he wouldn't want to do anything that might negatively affect his teammates. Earlier in the day, he apologized for having offended people*.

What caused an uproar - twice - is that Ellis posted multiple comments that sparked his followers to notice the class differences between NHL players and NHL fans. The fans buy the tickets that pay the contracts, as many fans said after Ellis tweeted about money. But Ellis just kept going, saying either that he deserved his seven-figure salary or that he worried about his money. A lot of fans (including myself, and for a couple of minutes I got carried away) reacted adversely, thinking he was acting like the ignorati that we'd hoped would have lost some money during the recession but instead got richer. My other theory is that he said these things on purpose, hoping to stir up some attention and maybe have the spotlight shine a little brighter on him come training camp. He took it so far, though, that I have to wonder how much attention he craved. Either way, he certainly wasn't expecting the backlash he received.

After his most recent rant (saying he worried more about money now than ever), some Twitter users started sarcastically listing what other problems might plague Dan Ellis. (One such example: "Help guys! I can't remember which garage I parked my Jag in.") Maybe it seemed rude to do so using a medium where Ellis might read it, but it's become a part of our Internet and celebrity culture to skewer famous people. TMZ has made some people very rich by doing just that. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying it happens. It's an unfortunate, unwritten clause in the contract that every NHL player signs. Maybe Ellis was prepared to hear criticism from his coach, his teammates, beat reporters, and the occasional "You suck!" on the ice, but he wasn't ready for the consequences of his own words.

In fact, at least parts of his apology and his sign-off tweets sounded canned, which leads many people to believe that this may have not been his decision. After all, why would someone who attacked some of his critics with personal replies suddenly relent? It definitely seems like he may have been influenced, or perhaps forced, to stop using Twitter. It's the kind of medium that can get a person in trouble very easily, and athletes are trained to act on a moment, so the eruption of a scandal isn't surprising at all.

What's surprising is that Ellis didn't expect people to react when provoked.
What's positive is that this story ended (at least for now) before he could try to "stir the pot" again.

*I thought it was pretty much known, in both PR situations and real life, that it's rude to say "I'm sorry if I offended anyone." People are offended by words and actions, and apologizing for causing a reaction isn't the same as apologizing for what caused it.

For more on Ellis and the potential ramifications of Twitter, have a look at The Goalie Guild's article written yesterday, before the apology and resignation.

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