Published in Casing Sports Communication. Ed. Diana Tucker & Jason Wrench. Kendall Hunt, 2015. Managing Social Media Responding to Critics on Twitter Theo Plothe ABSTRACT When a struggling star running back calls out the team’s play-by-play announcer on Twitter, the team must deal with the workplace and public relations aftermath. *** “Can you believe this hogwash?” bellowed an irate Stu Montague, otherwise known as the radio play-by-play voice of the St. Louis Buckhorns. A vein in Montague’s temple was throbbing a bright blue in the blue and gold of the Buckhorn team colors. An exasperated Bud Swanson sat at his large, mahogany General Manager’s desk, silently shaking his head in supportive acknowledgment of his now irate announcer. Montague furiously pointed to his tablet computer, on which appeared the Twitter stream for one Florian “Chicago Flo” Flanders. “These damn millennials,” growled Montague. “They just can’t be respectful and keep their thoughts to themselves. Do you know how embarrassing this is?” Montague glared accusingly at Swanson. All Swanson could do was nod his head and mutter, “I know, I know.” The Buckhorns star running back had just placed him in an untenable position. The reasons Montague was so irate were the social media missives Flanders had fired toward the team’s media representative. Montague collapsed into the fine leather chair in front of Swanson’s desk. The anger dissipated a bit into disbelief and a slight sense of betrayal as Montague said, “You know, I was his biggest defender early on this season. To think Flo would react like this to a little criticism? It’s wholly unacceptable.” *** Flanders arrived in St. Louis with the pomp and circumstance any big name free agent pick up would. He certainly wasn’t in town for a lack of performance having just come off one of the most successful years for a running back in Tampa history. Flanders knew it was just business, he wanted to get paid, and the Swashbucklers didn’t want to invest in a 27 year-old with five seasons of mileage on his legs in a league where tailbacks are chewed up and spit out at age 30. As such, though his signed a free-agent contract with Buckhorns, he clearly felt as if he had something to prove. Fan expectation of the titles “Chicago Flo” would bring to Mound City and the records he would break in the Dome were nearly as high as the Gateway Arch. For a team that made the Wild Card Published in Casing Sports Communication. Ed. Diana Tucker & Jason Wrench. Kendall Hunt, 2015. in Tampa, a moribund of a franchise if there was one, Flanders had run for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns. With a better team and a better organization, why wouldn’t ‘Horns’ fans (and the media who stoked the fire) expect the sublime? *** “Look, Stu,” Swanson said as he looked at the still simmering play-by-play announcer, “What do you want me to do? You want me to cut a guy just for talking garbage on Twitter?” Montague bristled. “I’m not saying that,” he replied as he stabbed his stubby index finger on Swanson’s desk, “But you’ve got to do something.” Swanson sighed and sat back in his seat. He certainly knew how the ‘Horns got here, which made the situation all the more difficult. Flanders’ season got off to a very slow start. He fumbled twice in the first game in his new digs, and a rumble soon followed every time he touched the ball in the Prometheus Funds Dome. His 2.7 yards per carry were the worst of any league running back with at least 70 carries. The ‘Horns as a whole, and not just Flanders, struggled mightily in the first half of the season, losing their first five games before winning 14–6 yesterday over the New Jersey Griffins. In Sunday’s game, Flanders had his best start of the season by gaining 82 yards on 23 attempts, but was pulled late in the game on the winning goal line touchdown. Shortly after, Flanders hit Twitter in a rage, reacting to fan criticism: Don't ever question my heart or effort.. You should want over achievers! That means they have a pulse and give a damn each game! — Florian Flanders (@chicagoflow22) October 26, 2014 @djswales33 You talk big for someone who can’t count my stax. Keep askin me if I want fries with that #knowyourrole — Florian Flanders (@chicagoflow22) October 26, 2014 “@hornsfancutie: Glad we’re pay you all that money to sit on the bench!!!” You aint payin me shit! I get paid 2 produce. U get paid 2 #STFU. — Florian Flanders (@chicagoflow22) October 26, 2014 Eventually, Flanders turned his attention toward Montague. Montague had been critical of Flanders’ play during the latest broadcast and his weekly radio show Tuesday nights on WLIS 940. “@suedegator: @chicagoflow22 Stu tore ur ass up this week! Lol U suck!!!” Like should care what he says? #smfh #bruhplease — Florian Flanders (@chicagoflow22) October 26, 2014 Published in Casing Sports Communication. Ed. Diana Tucker & Jason Wrench. Kendall Hunt, 2015. Don’t hate cuz Stu don’t know. My pops balled for Fox at MinnieSt and played in the League. Stu? Nuthn. Stu sniffin jock at KSU #bruhplease — Florian Flanders (@chicagoflow22) October 26, 2014 Stu "applauds that move" when I don't score?! Only scorin Stu knows is getting an extra blazin wing at BDubs when his fatass orders 2 dozen — Florian Flanders (@chicagoflow22) October 26, 2014 Only redzone that lardass been in is the high blood pressure one. dude smells like bacon on the radio. — Florian Flanders (@chicagoflow22) October 26, 2014 Ten minutes before Montague walked in his office at 9:30 this morning, popular sports blog Kissing Shelly Kohler already had 275,000 views on their Flanders’ Twitter story. The Buckhorns media and public relations office had been deluged with requests for comment. Massaging his temples with his left hand in defeated acknowledgement of the growing PR nightmare, Swanson had much to weigh on his mind in whatever decision he would make: a star player in the midst of a poor season, a hyper-attentive fanbase on social media, and a team ready for a title. Swanson dialed his intercom, “Hey Julie, I need Flo in my office yesterday. We have to have a conversation about this.” DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1) How should Swanson manage this situation in terms of the personnel issues? How might he address both Flanders and Montague? Should Swanson penalize Flanders in some way? 2) How should Swanson address this conflict with the media and the Buckhorns fanbase? What can Swanson do to mitigate the negative media coverage? 3) What, if any, changes should the team make to their social media policy in light of this situation? What should be in the team’s social media policy? 4) How should Montague, as the “voice of the Buckhorns” respond? What should he say publicly about the incident, or should he respond at all? KEY TERMS Social Media and Sport, Organizational Leadership You will write a media strategy and response recommendation to a case situation provided to you . Your response should include an in-depth justification of your recommendation to the sports organization using Relationship Management Theory . Your response should be 500 words.