Gilbert Arenas: Suspended From Washington Wizards After Twittering?

After one game this season, Ochocinco told his Twitter followers that he was going to a particular restaurant and encouraged them to meet him there. Sure enough, several dozen showed up and the Bengals wide receiver bought appetizers and drinks.

Is It Too Late for Professional Sports Leagues to Set Guidelines for Online Social Networks?

Professional sports leagues are trying to get a handle on their athletes as a way to control their message and protect their brand.

In September 2009, the NBA instituted new rules for its athletes who use these sites.

Under the new social media policy, athletes cannot tweet during game time, which includes the 45 minutes before a game starts, half-time and the period after a game that is traditionally used for press conferences and media interviews. Violators can be fined by the league and face additional sanctions by their team. The NFL has similar restrictions on the time periods when players may not use social media.

The regulations may stem from an incident last spring when Milwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva got into hot water for Tweeting during halftime of a game against the Boston Celtics.

Villanueva said on Twitter from the locker room that his coach "wants more toughness. I gotta step up."

Turns out his coach also wanted focus.

Head Coach Scott Skiles reamed out Villanueva for using Twitter during the game. Skiles said at the time that he didn't want to blow the incident out of proportion but "anything that gives the impression that we're not serious and focused at all times is not the correct way we want to go about our business."

But what may cause headaches for coaches and team management can be a dream for fans.

"It's very entertaining, it's great for fans of these guys," said Will Leitch, a contributing editor at New York magazine and founder of the sports Web site, "It's always best to think before you do something but Twitter makes it so easy, so you don't."

The direct access to original thoughts from athletes feeds into the "voyeur personality" that so many American have, said a former communications official for a professional sports team.

"It's the whole TMZ, 'celebrities are just like me,' -- people want to know what people are doing, and while it's normally boring mundane stuff [posted online], if you are a fan, you know what that athlete is up to," the communications official said.

Social networking sites allow athletes and celebrities to bypass the filter of the media – why answer questions at a press conference when you can spread your message on your own online?

But by taking public relations and image into your own hands, these athletes lose their favorite target of criticism – the sports media.

"It is you speaking, it's your words, your quotations," said a former professional sports communications official. "You can't say you are misquoted on your Twitter page."

Leitch said that Arenas' online presence will ultimately be good for his public image.

"I think what we like about Gilbert Arenas, what's appealing about him, definitely comes across in what he does on Twitter, but it certainly isn't helping his case with the NBA or the cops," he said.

ABC News' Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

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