GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Lennay Kekua scenarios and Anthony Weiner-gates aren’t wanted here.
Dylan Axelrod expects to hear a similar message on Friday morning when White Sox players undergo media training at Camelback Ranch.
While the franchise is on board with its players’ use of social media and encourages them to connect with fans, the front office also wants them to know the potential dangers of interaction through Facebook and Twitter.
In other words: No social media nightmares, please.
For the second straight year, players will receive formal training from White Sox fan and former White House Communications Director Kevin Sullivan. Also a former senior vice president of communications for NBC Universal and the Dallas Mavericks, Sullivan has 25 years experience in the field and routinely speaks with athletes.
“People are watching what you say so you need to be smart what you’re writing on Facebook or Twitter because you represent the organization,” Axelrod said. “They really pound us on representing the organization the right way. They show pictures or examples of guys not doing the right thing or they try to loosen us up by showing funny videos.”
Though there have been plenty of social media scandals involving athletes that should raise awareness, the organization prefers to offer its players a refresher course. Whereas only a few players used to participate in social media, now the majority of the room does, said White Sox senior vice president of communications, Scott Reifert. Reifert likes to use an outside consultant to reinforce the message the team’s media relations staff delivers to players on a daily basis.
“What you try to do is educate guys so they understand the risks,” Reifert said. “It seems silly nowadays, but at one point the conversation was explaining that it was as simple as ‘When you put something up on Twitter, lots of people can see it. It’s not just a one-on-one conversation.’ As things started, it was that basic and obviously it’s grown beyond that. Last year, lots of guys were on Twitter and almost everybody is on Facebook. … Part of it is stopping and making them understand they represent more than just themselves; they’ve got a team, teammates, lots of people who can potentially be impacted by this.”
The White Sox dealt with their own internal social media incident in 2011. Already heightened tensions between then-manager Ozzie Guillen and then-general manager Kenny Williams were raised when Guillen’s son, Oney, used his Twitter account to attack some of Williams’ decision.
Axelrod -- who recently joined Twitter (@Axe_33) -- sounds like he doesn’t need to be trained. He likes interaction with fans via social media but incidents like Manti Te’o’s fictitious girlfriend make him cautious.
“I feel like when you’re done with the game, you’re left with your character and I really take that to heart,” Axelrod said. “If anything comes up that is even a little bit iffy I’ll just get rid of it. It’s not worth it.”