Professional athletes are more accessible than they have ever been. Social media has allowed for candid comments from athletes and “conversations” with fans that were never possible as recently as a few years ago.
Players aren’t staring at cameras in post-game interviews and spouting off canned responses to the same questions that they get after every game. With social media like Twitter , players can express themselves. They can take pictures inside the locker room or on the field after a big win. They post comments, pictures and even video more readily and don't have the fear of being misquoted or something coming out as it wasn’t intended.
The league with the most players on Twitter is the NFL. According to www.tweeting-athletes.com , there are 895 people with NFL ties who are tweeting. They include former player and NFL draft prospects.
The most followed NFL player is Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver, Chad Ochocinco ( @ochocinco ) with almost 1.7 million followers. Ochocinco is also an active tweeter with more than 24,000 tweets and he routinely answers his followers when they ask him questions. Across the board of professional athletes, Chad Ochocinco is the gold standard when it comes to social media.
When the Bengals were in Cleveland to play the Browns, Ochocinco tweeted that he would treat 85 people to dinner and later sent out the location. Ten minutes later, people were lined up outside of XO Prime Steaks and within two hours, they were well fed. 85 people got a free dinner and drinks because they follow Ochocinco on Twitter.
The Cleveland Browns have 19 players who are tweeting according to tweeting-athletes. The most followed is special teams standout and wide receiver Josh Cribbs (@ JoshCribbs16 ) with more than 53,000 people keeping up with his frequent comments and pictures about both football and his family.
While there are 385 soccer players listed as being active on Twitter, the NBA has the second most players from the “big four” sports with 317 players, former players and owners. The most popular basketball player is Boston Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal (@ THE_REAL_SHAQ ) with more than 3.5 million followers. Shaq’s hook is very much like Ochocinco’s: he’s quotable. In fact, in the description of himself on his Twitter page, O’Neal wrote “VERY QUOTATIOUS, I PERFORM RANDOM ACTS OF SHAQNESS.”
There are nine Cleveland Cavaliers using Twitter and Mo Williams (@ mogotti2 ) leads the way with more than 84,000 followers. Mo’s following comes from his popularity on the court, although he’s not as active as other athletes on the site. Since Feb. 3, Williams has tweeted just twice, while other athletes will tweet multiple times each day.
Winter sports and Mixed Martial Arts rank next on the list with 249 and 224 users respectively.
Professional golfers are fairly active on Twitter with 151 men and women on the site. The most popular players are Stewart Cink (@ stewartcink ) with 1.2 million followers and Ian Poulter (@ IanJamesPoulter ) with 1.1 million. By comparison, Tiger Woods (@ TigerWoods ) has a little more than half a million followers.
Cink and Poulter are very active with their accounts. They both send out pictures and videos from venues all over the world. Cink used the social media site to send out a picture of the British Open trophy on his plane flying back to the United States after he won the tournament in 2009. They’ve also both used Twitter to run contests and giveaways to people who follow them.
Baseball is tied with motorsports when it comes to Twitter as both have 146 users. The most popular baseball player is New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher (@ NickSwisher ) who has more than 1.2 million followers.
The Cleveland Indians have just four players using Twitter and Matt LaPorta (@ Gator4God ) leads the way with just over 6,200 followers. Manager Manny Acta (@ Mactriber_11 ), pitcher Jensen Lewis (@ JLEWFifty ) and Chris Perez (@ ChrisPerez54 ) also use the social media site.
Other sports listed on tweeting-athletes are cycling with 114 users and the NHL and tennis which both have 86 players on the site.
If you’re looking for something in sports that you won’t be able to find in a television report or your local sports page, go on Twitter and create a group to follow your favorite players. You’ll find plenty of comments, pictures and videos that are unique to the social networking platform. It’s access that has changed the sports fan’s view of what happens with his/her favorite player when not on the field or court--and it can be fascinating.
Pete Kenworthy is co-anchor of Good Morning Cleveland and you can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter .