Social Media and Sports: On Shaq, Mathis, and Twitter

The methods by which social media continues to circumvent old media processes in the dissemination of sports news and information are both fascinating and evolving. Social mediums like Twitter have quickly gone from a place where news and information was once simply exchanged, to a platform in which it is now first written and reported. An increased level of connectivity between athletes, fans, and those who cover sports may either be the cause or effect of that, but it is this momentum created through these social media channels dictating the unprecedented speed at which news currently travels. A pace that’s leaving far more traditional practices and techniques for reporting the news struggling to stay applicable than just simply the newspaper.


As Cavs fans, holding two top lottery picks heading into this past June’s NBA Draft, we watched a collection of underclassmen bypass the need for their local beat reporter and declared their intentions to enter the draft themselves in one hundred and forty characters or less. We also watched former Cavalier Shaquille O’Neal do his best to force traditional retirement press conferences – with all their podiums, labeled microphones, and cameramen emerging from news vans – one step closer to its own expiration as well. Shaq first broke the news that he planned to hang up his size 21’s by shooting a YouTube style video, and posting that on his Twitter account. He did have a catered party too at his house for media members later, which was both cool and unique, but by then the retirement news had already been reported by his Shaq-ness himself.

It was a particularly thought provoking instance of social media side-stepping traditional processes in media that I read yesterday, though, that turned this particular stream of consciousness into a collection of words here today. At the Indianapolis Colts’ site, 18to88, Nate Dunleavy summarized an example of how twitter actually killed a sports story two days before it essentially broke in the United States. As Nate lays out in his post, a veteran NFL reporter published a story stating that the Colts’ Robert Mathis was “likely to hold out from training camp once football resumed” in order to renegotiate his contract. The piece first appeared through Yahoo! Canada, containing no comment from Mathis in the story. Nate reached out via twitter on Friday after reading the initial report, and received a response back from Mathis that day publicly refuting the story’s validity. Despite that, like a slow moving train unable to brake, the original report appeared on mainstream news feeds in the United States for the first time two days later. It was subsequently corrected, but not until after it ran on Sunday without mention of Mathis’ specific denial from the Friday before.

It’s examples like this that demonstrate how social media is rapidly becoming the exclusive vehicle for transporting sports news in our modern world. And as quickly as news moves now, the way in which it travels is changing even quicker.

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine,,, and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.