Mike Preston: Social media has changed the narrative for NFL players, and it is not good | COMMENTARY

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Mike Preston, The Baltimore Sun
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National Football League head coaches are spending as much time monitoring their players on social media as they are drawing up and installing plays.

That’s because we are in the “Me Generation” of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. Hey, look at my new car, new house or new cellphone. That’s me with my dog Butkus, or here I am drinking a cup of coffee. Oh, there I am in front of the new beach house.

Look at me. It’s always about me, me, me …

Social media is out of control in professional sports, especially in the NFL. Every year the Ravens have player seminars to warn about the effects of using social media, but apparently the message isn’t getting through because the negative significantly outweighs the positive.

Players want to control their own narratives over coaches, the media and front-office personnel. They also want to establish their brands, which is why names such as Patrick Mahomes and LeBron James are as popular as some teams in either the NBA or NFL.

The NFL, including the Ravens, has tried to squelch some of the negative fallout from social media. Head coaches or assistants follow players’ Twitter accounts because their words can have devastating and long-term consequences. However, there has been little impact from the monitoring by coaches. It’s gotten too big. Agents probably have gotten involved, which is why quarterbacks such as Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Seattle’s Russell Wilson have tweeted about their unhappiness in an effort to sway public opinion, or in the case of Watson, force a possible trade.

The Ravens have gone tweet happy, too. Recently, right offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. wanted everyone to know he prefers to be on the left side where he can make more money and is seeking a trade. Receivers such as Marquise Brown and Dez Bryant aren’t so enthusiastic about the Ravens run-oriented offense.

Players have complained about COVID-19 concerns, shown game film, which shouldn’t have been aired publicly, and as recently as this week threatened reporters.

The days of effective communication are gone because dialogue has been replaced by one voice. It’s about me. Good, old selfish me.

Most of it is whining. If Ravens receivers are more concerned about their role in the offense or the lack of receptions, wouldn’t it be more practical to go to the offensive coordinator, position or head coach than to make complaints publicly?

There is no sympathy here because this has been a run-dominated offense for three seasons. Did anyone think quarterback Lamar Jackson was going to start tossing the ball around stadiums like Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers?

In the case of Orando Brown Jr., Ravens executives Eric DeCosta and Ozzie Newsome are common-sense guys. If he had just gone to them and asked for permission to seek a trade they probably would have granted him permission, especially after how well Brown played last season.

But was Brown trying to get public sympathy with his tweet on switching position. Sorry, the average fan isn’t going to feel compassion for Brown if he makes $15 million in 2022 compared to $20 million.

Poor baby.

Player threats on reporters are just as senseless. Before the invention of Twitter, player/reporter altercations were solved either by going to the team’s public relations director or a discussion between the two parties.

I’ve been involved in a few of those through the years. To be honest, there has been a lot since 1996. Some were professional and some were one-sided filled with expletives. There were physical threats and discussions that were full of sarcasm. But things always got resolved because there was dialogue.

It may have taken a while, but different views were shared, and we always had a mutual respect.

In a way, head coaches are to blame for some of this tweeting mess. Ten to 15 years ago reporters were allowed to spend more than an hour in a locker room interviewing players. Relationships were forged. Players knew which reporters they could trust, who were the best guys in the room.

Head coaches, though, want to control the narrative as much as the players. At times they can be suffocating, and the players feel the need to be heard. But most of them can’t get their messages out because they are so self-centered.

And so they tweet, tweet and tweet some more. A lot of them don’t care about the fans, their teammates, coaches or team goals that might get pushed to the side.

It’s usually about me.

It’s a shame.