NFL and Refs come to an Agreement, Social Media Played a Big Role

Photograph by: Joshua Trujillo , AP

It’s always rough when two sides of an argument don’t back down. Two stubborn people or groups of people can take an issue and let it run until they get their way. I’ve always been one to look for compromise; I really think in most cases both sides of an argument can be happy if they just worked together. Of course, in labor disputes, things can get nasty between the employer and employees or unions. It’s unfortunate because both sides just want what they think is best for themselves.

The most recent labor dispute that has everyone (literally, everyone) talking is between the NFL and their professional referees. It began before this season started and has been making headlines ever since. This morning The Boston Globe reported, “The national football nightmare is over. The real referees are back.” Yep, tonight NFL fans will be graced with the presence of high-quality refs once again. But why, after so many weeks, did an agreement finally come to be? I’d like to argue social media played a huge role.

Twitter and Facebook Piled on the Pressure

Football is America’s sport. Many fans take it very seriously. When replacement refs started to make mistakes, people noticed. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms were inundated with angry fans clamoring to get the real refs back on the field. For a while it didn’t do much, but eventually, as an Associated Press story points out “mounting frustration among coaches, players, and fans” led to an “end [of the] lockout that began in June.”

Curious how extensive this “mounting frustration” got? A tweet by TJ Lang of the Packers after their team lost due to a bad call has been called the “third-most retweeted post on Twitter in history.” Lang stated, “[Expletive] it NFL.. Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs.” Troy Aikman, a football legend tweeted, “These games are a joke.” That’s just two of the hundreds of thousands of tweets that flooded Twitter. Also, Facebook was full of heated status updates and angry fans during the last few weeks.

The President gets Involved

Players, public officials, fans, newscasters, sports reporters, and everyone who is anyone took to social media to voice their frustration with the NFL’s refusal to come to an agreement. Just a few years ago, this wouldn’t have happened because people were not using social media the way they do today.

Even the President of the United States, Barack Obama, wouldn’t have tweeted about a private organizations labor dispute a few years ago. But, as a fan of the sport, the President stated in a tweet this week, “NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs’ lockout is settled soon.”

This issue, because of social media, had become something the entire nation knew about, not just sports fans. I followed it, and I haven’t followed football seriously for about 4 years (I know, shame on me). President Obama took the time to tweet about this in the middle of the United Nations summit in NYC. Talk about the power of social media!

This is an Example of how Important Social Media is Becoming

Whether you use social media only in your personal life, or to communicate with customers, or as a marketing tool for your business, no one can argue that the influence of social media platforms isn’t growing. It gives individuals a voice. It gives businesses a voice that allows them to directly interact with customers on the same level.

Social media works for small and big business alike. I really think these last few weeks with the NFL replacement refs has been a wonderful example of how social media can demonstrate what the public wants. Sure, it can be used to show what customers want, and it’s great for that too. But can you imagine this lockout being solved in such an immediate manner twenty—or even 10—years ago?

I can’t. The weight of the nation came down on the NFL because of Twitter and Facebook. Things were getting out of hand with the replacement refs and people were tired of it. I don’t think it’s a surprise that after Monday night we saw this lockout come to an end before the next game. Ultimately, I think we can all relax and breathe a sigh of relief that we will see the real refs back in action tonight.

Are you using social media to promote your business and communicate with customers?

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Patrick currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is studying for a Master's Degree in Intercultural Relations. Upon graduation from Penn State in 2008, he spent two years overseas in Kyrgyzstan with the U.S. Peace Corps. While writing is currently his chosen way to put food on the table, he loves fitness and exercise, which he believes makes up for his avid computer gaming habit.

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