By Steve WozniakAP Sports WriterThe social dilemma: The NFL has always been a place where the rules are often in conflict with social norms.
But as social media has grown, so have its rules, and that has created a conflict for the league.
The NFL’s social media teams, the league’s official accounts, the NFL Films and many of its teams have become platforms for many of the leagues biggest stars.
In the wake of the Ray Rice incident, the Ravens hired a PR firm to create a new team that will be in a position to handle social media, even as it will be on the outside looking in.
The team, the Baltimore-based PR firm, will be called NFL PR.
It has hired a senior PR rep from the Ravens, a man named Matt DePaula, and is using the handle @DePaulaPR.
“There’s no such thing as a safe place,” said a source with direct knowledge of the hiring.
“The only safe place is the one you work in.
But the PR firm has been in the trenches for years and they’ve never been in a situation where they’ve felt they had to make a change.
But now that they have that responsibility, they have to make the best decision for the team.”
The NFL’s PR team, in turn, has hired some of the best in the business to handle the new position, according to multiple sources.
It’s not only DePaulas role that will involve social media; it’s a PR department that has been under the NFL’s purview for years, one that includes a veteran PR director who worked on NFL Films’ first two seasons.
The veteran PR rep, who also is a veteran NFL player, will also be the head of the PR department.
“It’s a very well-respected group of people,” the source said.
“They know what they are doing and they will be the best team on this.
It will be a real team.”
But the new team has to work hard to avoid the social media wars that have roiled the league over the past decade.
In recent weeks, teams have had to come to grips with the impact of social media on the game and how to deal with the fallout.
For instance, the Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers have both had to take a hard look at the impact their social media presence has had on their games, as well as how to avoid future problems.
For the Steelers, their social-media team has been called the “Iron Man” in recent weeks.
The Steelers have been under fire for months over what they saw as poor social media practices, with players saying the team was not responding to fans, nor was it communicating with fans via social media.
It led to some players taking a leave of absence from the team and the Steelers being fined $25,000 and stripped of the AFC South title.
But they were able to return to the field and win a playoff game.
“We’re getting the message, we need to make this right,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers and Falcons also have faced controversy over the social-platform controversy, as they both are under scrutiny for not providing their players with a social media platform that allows them to share and comment on the games.
The Falcons have faced criticism over how they handled the issue with the league, and the NFL has also been criticized for not being transparent with its team’s social-streaming policy, which is supposed to allow players to post and comment as they see fit.
“If they had put it out there, I think they would have had some sort of a problem,” said one team official, who declined to be named.
“But they didn’t.
They just kept it quiet.”
The Steelers are also facing criticism because of the way they handled a controversial video in which former NFL running back Ray Rice made crude comments about the wife of teammate Nakia Wright.
“What we need is to make sure this doesn’t happen again, that this doesn, quote, ‘come back again,’ ” Roethisberger said.
And the team has also had to grapple with its own controversial use of Twitter, which led to the suspension of a player from the Steelers team.
“I think they’re taking a look at Twitter because the league needs to be in the forefront of the use of social-networking,” said the team’s PR rep.
“You have to look at social media to see if you can change the culture of the sport.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons were fined $5,000 for their handling of the situation and the teams both released statements on the matter.
But it wasn’t just the teams that were in trouble, as other teams have also been under scrutiny.
“In my opinion, the problem is that you have the Falcons and the Ravens who have had a reputation for not following the rules,” said another team official.
“That’s why I think the team is in the position it is.”