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Tennis Players Encouraged to Watch what they Tweet

Mon, 08/31/2009 - 7:56am
Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor

 

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Even tennis isn’t sacrosanct—competitors in the US Open are being warned to watch what they tweet. The warning is purportedly to ensure compliance with tennis’ “Anti-Corruption Program Rules.

Posted in conspicuous locations, the warning reads: "Many of you will have Twitter accounts in order for your fans to follow you and to become more engaged in you and the sport - and this is great…however popular it is, it is important to warn you of some of the dangers posted by Twittering as it relates to the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program Rules." Tennis has always seen itself as a refined, gentlemen’s sport. If you’ve been to an event, you can’t help but notice a certain refinement; an upper-class crustiness. After all, the group associated with the Twitter warning was the “Tennis Integrity Unit” (italics mine). Tennis officials are extra-sensitive to anything that could damage their highfalutin image.

Russia’s Nikolay DavydenkN-Davydenko-webo, in particular, has attracted controversy like a fat kid on cake. During a small Polish tournament, Davydenko was accused of throwing the match after several large bets were placed against him. Davydenko went up 6-2 before the bets were placed, and then “retired” (i.e. forfeited) in the third set due to an alleged foot injury. Davydenko was cleared of these charges but controversy again struck at the St. Petersburg Open in October 2007. During his loss to Marin Cilic, Davydenko was given a code violation for “not giving his best effort.” Davydenko hit six double-faults in two consecutive service games, a highly-unusual lapse for a professional tennis player. The Russian was chided by umpire, Cedric Mourier, to "try your best."

Tennis’ Anti-Corruption Program mentions that, “Evidence of a Player's lack of efforts or poor performance during an Event may be offered to support allegations that a Covered Person committed a Corruption Offense, but the absence of such evidence shall not preclude a Covered Person from being sanctioned for a Corruption Offense.” This, along with Davydenko’s surly demeanor, explains why the Russian is generally watched like a hawk.

To play devil’s advocate, twitter could potentially violate any number of Anti-Corruption statutes. The moss egregious violation, in my opinion, is the following: “No Covered Person shall, directly or indirectly, solicit or accept any money, benefit or Consideration, for the provision of any Inside Information.” However, this assumes that the tweets in question give away privileged information. Many twitter updates are throwaway glimpses into celebrity lives—not confidential information.
America’s top star, Andy Roddick, strongly opposed the warning. The 2003 US Open champion wrote that it's “lame the US Open is trying to regulate our tweeting...I definitely respect the rule about inside info and on the court, but you would seriously have to be a moron to send 'inside info' through a tweet.” Ultimately, this could be much ado about nothing. Tennis hasn’t reached the level of paranoia (justified paranoia, according to some) that characterizes the NFL.

After the fallout surrounding “Spygate,” some teams took aggressive action to curb leaks. In the extreme case, some teams banned cell phones and laptops from training camp. This is straight-up paranoia. In another case, the San Diego Chargers fined Antonio Cromartie (@crimetime31) $2,500 for a tweet that read, "Man we have 2 have the most nasty food of any team. Damn can we upgrade 4 str8 years the same ish maybe that’s y we can’t we the SB we need." In this case, the fine seemed reasonable—employees of all organizations are generally expected not to publicly criticize their employer.

The controversy will continue, but it will originate from players—not technology. Tweet fines notwithstanding, if a player wants to place an illegal wager, they’ll do so regardless of technological “advantages.” And in this editor’s opinion, there are better sources of “inside information” than twitter. 

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