Instant feedback for athletes on Twitter

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:37 AM ET

CALGARY - Tweeter's regret isn't the same as buyer's remorse.

You can always return a purchase you have second thoughts about. Twitter isn't as forgiving for people in the public eye.

Yes, there is a delete button. But if you suddenly change your mind about a thought you just posted, you better be quick about taking it back.

You'll often have an angry reply or 10 in your 'mentions' folder before your brain even processes the possible ramifications of what you -- at least for a split second -- thought was witty or amusing.

Since-traded Calgary Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris was the centre of a local controversy when a crude oral sex joke appeared on his Twitter feed in August.

Although he deleted it and swore 'til the bitter end of the team's brief "investigation" that he didn't post it himself, the event brings up another lesson for those in the limelight -- protect your personal stuff.

Leaving yourself logged in on a shared computer or not bothering to password protect your phone isn't a luxury anyone with a little notoriety has anymore.

And when it comes to politics, if you have an opinion you feel an unstoppable urge to share with the world, you better be ready for the repercussions.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall fell into that category when he tweeted his distaste for the death of Osama Bin Laden and implied there might be a 9/11 conspiracy.

He was quickly dropped by a sponsor, Champion.

Gay slurs cost former Kansas City Chiefs player Larry Johnson upward of $200,000 when he was suspended by the team for a game after he tapped out homophobic comments via Twitter.

Calgary Flames forward Michael Cammalleri has piled up 127,000-plus followers without much controversy.

The hot water in which he landed in Montreal before being traded back to Calgary was due to a verbal misunderstanding. If anything, that taught him to be even more cautious about what he says or writes.

"I tweet pretty PC, I think, for the most part," Cammalleri said. "It's used differently for different people and different interests and different needs."

Athletes aren't alone in the need for caution.

Exhibit A is the 'KKK' tweet courtesy of hockey analyst Dave Hodge.

When Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas decided for political reasons to skip the traditional White House visit with the Stanley Cup champions, TSN's Hodge thought he was being funny when he pointed out the eclectic Thomas' three children all have first names that start with the letter K.

"Don't know if it's fair to point this out, but Tim Thomas has three children named Kiley, Kelsey and Keegan." he posted in late January.

All that came of it was a clarifying comment from Hodge and a discussion with his employers.

It could have been much worse.

"To clarify, yesterday's tweet was simply a satirical, tongue-in-cheek observation meant to be humourous and not intended to be offensive." an unapologetic Hodge wrote the next day.

Rarely do public figures intend to be offensive. But you never know who might take your words the wrong way.

Another case of that was when former Flames winger Rene Bourque made what he thought was an innocuous comment on the lives of hockey wives and, in the process, drew the wrath of the spouses of Mark Giordano and Jamie Lundmark.

"You've just got to be smart about it. That's the message," says Olli Jokinen, who tweets maybe once every few months.

Jokinen's wife is a more regular poster, but he's not worried about what she might say.

"She's smart," he says, adding the team had a media training session that included social media at the start of the season. "I don't have to worry about it. Your wife can say what she feels and it's nothing to do with me or the team. I think they've got all the rights to say whatever they feel like."

So do the players -- as long as they're prepared to deal with whatever consequences come their way.

STARS KNOW PROS AND CONS OF TWITTER

When Calgary Flames forward Mikael Backlund injured his shoulder and it was announced he would be out for at least a month, the notes of sympathy flooded his Twitter account.

In turn, he tweeted his thanks.

But the accessibility doesn't always lead to support.

Quite the opposite when passion overtakes fans and their team happens to be a rival of the Flames.

Backlund is used to getting some crude messages in capital letters -- especially when preparing for a matchup against the Vancouver Canucks.

Taking it in stride, the bad with the good, Backlund has a Twitter routine as regular as his game-day meals and naps.

"If other fans from other teams say something stupid, I usually retweet it and put a little comment on there and then just block the person," the 22-year-old Swede said.

"If they're gonna be idiots, well, they don't have to be part of what I'm doing."

A recent example, edited for language but not bad grammar: "@mbacklund11 your out of your mind if you think the flames are gonna beat the canucks. F--- YOU [expletive].. CANUCKS ALLDAY"

When retweeted by Backlund, the ensuing battle between Flames fans and the offenders often last for hours.

"It was pretty fun when a Vancouver fan was chirping me bad (previously)," Backlund recounts. "I retweeted it and all the Flames fans -- my phone was going nuts, they were all over him the whole day.

"Tweets were coming in all the time."


Videos

Photos