Social Media, Replacement Referees And Crisis Comms

For those of us addicted to football (American football, my overseas friends), the current season has been tough to deal with. Due to a contract issue, the National Football League has locked their referees out and have installed replacement refs to adjudicate the games.

The results have been, as anticipated, not pretty. At the end of this week’s Monday night game (for my football fans that’s typically the biggest game of the week), the Seattle Seahawks quarterback heaved a pass to the end zone, hoping to score on the final play and win the game. A Green Bay Packers player seemingly came down with the ball, which was then wrestled away by a Seahawks player. One of the replacement referees called the play a touchdown, another called it an interception. In either case, the game was over, and who won was contingent upon the referees call.

The refs ruled that the Seahawks won. The social media world subsequently exploded.

A number of Green Bay Packers players tweeted their displeasure.

You can see in the picture above how, after midnight on the East Coast, how large of a response that event generated. The reason I post on this is the following line in a TechCrunch article posted this afternoon:

[T]he point is that NFL players took to Twitter first to voice their displeasure, rather than talking to mainstream press on camera. The tide has changed for how people communicate, and this is a perfect example.

I think that anyone who has been paying attention to crisis communications has seen this shift taking place. It’s just really nice to see that in stark terms (with pictures!) on a topic that a wide majority of Americans are interested in.

Update from Heather Brink (devoted Packers fan): According to the Twitter blog, the play in question generated more than one million tweets, and TJ Lang (the most vociferous tweeter in this matter) had more than 150,000 retweets himself. Truly viral.