Media: Twitter Separates Strong From The Tweet

Last night a garden variety SEC basketball game played out between Mississippi State and Alabama in Tuscaloosa. (In coasting to a 75-61 win, the Crimson Tide completed a season sweep of the Bulldogs.)

Ravern Johnson rips Rick Stansbury on Twitter, Renardo Sidney agrees

(See update on new story development at bottom of this post)

In past years, the game would ultimately be of no consequence, but thanks to Twitter, we were let in on a team secret after the game that added exponentially to interest in the game.

After the game, Mississippi State senior guard Ravern Johnson offered little more than platitudes to the credentialed media in Tuscaloosa. But later, Johnson later took to his Twitter account to reveal his true feelings about Wednesday’s proceedings.

Johnson tore into coach Rick Stansbury with this Tweet:

“Starting to see why people Transfer, you can play the minutes but not getting your talents shown because u watching someone else wit the ball the whole game shooters need to move not watch why other coaches get that do not make sense to me.”

It gets worse.

Johnson’s Tweet was then re-Tweeted by Renardo Sidney, who earlier this season made national news by fighting ex-teammate Elgin Bailey in the stands during a college hoops tournament in Hawaii of which MSU was a participant.

Following the brawl, which included video broadcasted into submission by every ESPN platform known to man, Bailey transferred in early January. Later, guard MSU scholarship guard Twany Beckham also left the team to walk-on at Kentucky.

Johnson’s Tweet about MSU Coach Stansbury certainly isn’t earth-shattering news at the level of the Sidney-Bailey brawl, but it makes clear that off-court turmoil continues to occur on Stansbury’s watch.

Brad Locke of the TUPELO (MS) DAILY JOURNAL was all over the story last night, reporting the Johnson Tweet, the Sidney re-Tweet and the inevitable development that both players had subsequently deleted not only the Tweets, but their entire Twitter accounts.

On his own Twitter account, Locke also acknowledged at least one Mississippi State fan who Tweeted he wouldn’t be buying the print edition of the Daily Journal in which Locke’s reportage of the Tweets was published.

@cps36 is the disgruntled reader:

@bradlocke @cps36 Inner turmoil is very relevant and newsworthy. It kind of affects the on-court product.

@bradlocke It’s indicative of a larger problem with this team.

@bradlocke People who don’t understand the news value of this situation, esp w/in the context of this team’s situation, just aren’t very savvy.

@bradlocke Your loss. RT @cps36: @bradlocke I won’t be buying that paper.

As Twitter has exploded in popularity, I’ve heard many media members lament its influence on sports - and athletes - as inordinately negative.

I’m the first person to consider the context when reporting comments from a sports figure, but taking the time to tap out a message as Johnson did last night is a long way from a slip of the tongue.

We’re also to the point where high profile athletes, however young, understand that everything they post on the web will be scrutinized by the public and the media. Most college athletes having literally grown up with Twitter and Facebook as integral parts of their lives and often understand the application and implication of web messages better than media members who haven’t shared the same life experience.

Like many, I’m not a big fan of putting my life on Facebook display, but the reality is that social networking sites are here to stay.

The days of marginalizing Twitter and Facebook are over. Any media member who isn’t acknowledging those sites better start yesterday or go ahead and take that retirement package his/her boss has been offering.

UPDATE
: In the aftermath of the above story, Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Stansbury announced in a statement today that he is banning MSU hoops players from using Twitter.

It’s a new world we live in with Twitter and all the things you can do on the Internet. After the game last night, we had a frustrated player that gets on Twitter and says things that aren’t appropriate. In the heat of the moment, some young men just don’t understand once they put something out there for everyone to see, there is no taking it back. That’s why I’m banning the use of Twitter at this point.

Mississippi State Athletic Director Scott Stricklin added to Brandon Marcello of the JACKSON (MS) CLARION-LEDGER:

“I told all of our student-athletes in August that I considered public social networking tools a privilege, not a right,” Stricklin said Thursday. “They need to be managed responsibly.”

As I wrote before this new development, Twitter and Facebook are a fact of life for most college athletes. Banning the use of such sites is a mere temporary reprieve to what really ails the Mississippi State program. Clearly, the issues facing Stansbury’s team go much, much deeper than a couple simple Tweets.

Follow Brooks on Twitter for post alerts and Renardo Sidney global positioning updates.