Was Ashley Cole’s Twitter outburst the most expensive tweet ever sent?

18 Oct 2012

Ashley Cole during the UEFA Champions League final in May 2012. Photo courtesy Laszlo Szirtesi via Shutterstock

Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole has been fined stg£90,000 for a tweet insulting the Football Association. At stg£6,923.08 per character, it could be the priciest update ever posted – but is it enough to make sports stars think twice before tweeting?

It seems that when it comes to sports personalities and Twitter, good sense often goes out the window and Cole is not the first to have been hit with penalty for an outburst in 140 characters or less.

In the Canadian Football League (and that’s football of the American variety, not soccer), players can be disciplined for remarks they post on social media if they are deemed obscene, sexually explicit or discriminating. The latter was the case yesterday when BC Lions player Khalif Mitchell was issued with a suspension and fine for a tweet involving a racial slur. The amount put to Mitchell for his indiscretion has not been revealed.

NFL rules state that players can only tweet up to 90 minutes before kick-off and hold out until post-game interviews are complete. New York Giants player Andre Brown seemed to have forgotten this rule when he tweeted from the changing room during a Sunday game earlier this month – though that may have been the concussion’s fault.

Brown’s tweet, which was meant to let his followers know he was fine, could result in a fine from the NFL, which last year took US$10,000 from Steelers player Troy Polamalu for calling his wife from the sideline to let her know he was OK.

This summer, the NBA hit the New York Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire with a US$50,000 fine for a homophobic term directed at a fan on Twitter. Earlier in the summer, two-time snooker world champion Mark Williams’ criticism of a venue for the World Championship cost him stg£4,000, and earlier this year again England cricketer Kevin Pietersen was fined an undisclosed sum for tweeting his distaste with the choice of commentator for a test match.

And coming back full circle to the UK’s Premier League, Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand was hit with a stg£45,000 fine for use of a racially charged term in reference to Cole. In this case, Ferdinand responded to a tweet from a fan, agreeing with their use of the term ‘choc ice’ to describe Cole in reference to his support of teammate John Terry during a trial in which Terry was accused of racial abuse against Anton Ferdinand – Rio’s younger brother.

This is just a brief selection of fines issued to sports stars throughout the year, but Cole’s ranks as the most severe penalty among them by a long shot. Perhaps the high cost of sharing heat-of-the-moment thoughts on social media will finally hit home with these players … but, then again, Twitter may become a bit duller as a result.

Image of Ashley Cole via Laszlo Szirtesi on Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.