Friday, 10 June 2011

Conte Cuttino and the Twitter Controversy

Earlier this week the Hamilton Tiger-Cats parted ways with rookie Running Back Conte Cuttino.

Under normal circumstances, this wouldn't be a big deal. Every year during Training Camp a number of prospects get cut for various reasons, such as underperforming.

Conte Cuttino, however, was not cut because he under-performed.

Conte Cuttino was cut for a brand new reason.

Conte Cuttino was cut because of Twitter.

This is not the first time that the Tiger-Cats have had to deal with a Twitter controversy. Last season, Maurice Mann took to Twitter to voice his displeasure at his role with the team, even going as far as telling Marcel Bellefeuille that he was a "whack ass coach."

Mann deactivated his Twitter account not long afterward, and everybody moved on.

I was not on the player's side in that instance. Not because Mann used Twitter, but because Mann had done nothing to that point in the season to warrant calling anyone "whack ass."

That said, I cannot side with the team on this one. The Tiger-Cats need to quit acting like Luddites. The weird part is that Tiger-Cats use Twitter in a variety of capacities, so the coaching staff's outrage at player usage is confusing at best and hypocritical at worst.

Twitter is a way fans can interact with the players they cheer for on game day. Rules put in place to stifle that interaction should no longer be tolerated. We live in a different world, and like it or not, Twitter (and Facebook) are a part of that world.

I understand that teams want to let as little information as possible leak out for fear of giving their opponents a tactical advantage, but this incident that led to a player being released is hardly the same. All Cuttino did was show support to injured teammates. He was being a good teammate, and for that he was released.

Teams want to control the message; in this century, that's simply not possible. A young player should not lose his opportunity because he embraces ways to interact with his fans. That's wrong, and even though he apologized and seemed sincere in his regret, he shouldn't have had to do that. Cuttino even deactivated his Twitter feed in response. Another act of contrition that he should not have had to make.

I've heard the argument that he broke a rule and needed to be punished. The problem isn't that a rule was broken; the problem is that the rule exists.

It is high time that the Tiger-Cats step out of the past and join the rest of us in the present by abolishing this unnecessary and archaic rule.


  1. I can see the team's point.

    What if Twitter had been used to show that Glenn is nursing a shoulder injury, or that Cobourne is having a hard time cutting to his left? Or that there was a heated argument between coaches? Or to mention that the Ticats were practicing a certain play?

    Where is the line drawn?

    So I have to side with the Cats on this one. Use of online media is fine, but there has to be a hard line when it comes to unofficially disclosing internal team information. Players cannot be expected to deal with "degrees of ok" when it comes to reporting the goings-on of practice and the locker room - it's all or nothing IMO, and when it comes to anything that could affect competitive balance it has to be nothing. Otherwise, respectfully tweet away (like Brown and others have done regarding other subject material).

    And yes, information is readily available and could be reported any number of ways over which the team has no control. But why should that make their policy archaic?

  2. In the situations you outline about Glenn or Cobourne, I could see the need for secrecy. That would give an advantage to the opponent. But what Cuttino did by wishing his fallen teammate well isn't exactly the same, in my opinion.

    Some things warrant punishment and some things warrant censoring, but no one should get fired from their job because they wished their co-worker well in recovering from an injury. That strikes me as too controlling.

    I would hazard to guess that if he was really in the running to make the team, they would have kept him. He was a bubble guy, and in being a bubble guy, he made himself the odd-man out by breaking a team rule. Had this been Jamall Johnson wishing a speedy recovery to Markeith Knowlton, we both know that JJ would not have been cut.

    Maybe I was a little harsh on the team, but I find it refreshing when athletes are able to be themselves. In the end Cuttino was simply being a supportive teammate. I just think it's too bad it cost him his opportunity.

  3. I think it was inadvertent and he had good intentions. So I agree, it sucks. Especially after reading his apologetic statements - the guy clearly has a great attitude.

    It's not uncommon for companies to have policies about divulging private company information, which may result in dismissal if violated. But maybe it's not so black and white.

    Would they release a star vet for doing the same thing? Interesting dilemma, and an issue of consistency in applying rules. Probably not, though. From the team's perspective, I'd actually hope they don't make these decisions in a vacuum, and that they consider the situation as well as the action. So I think Cuttino may have gotten just a stern warning had this happened later in the year, but right now with the team trying to evaluate so many players a good chunk of them are on thin ice, and it's also important to set a high standard with regard to team expectations.

    Totally different situation, but one could argue that the team didn't have to cut Matechuk either. Had the CFL discovered steroid use by him, nobody would have known about it (as a first offense), so technically that part of it wasn't going to result in his termination (and we don't even know he was going to take them - though it's probably likely he would have). He did not disclose the arrest to the team, which some would say is akin to lying - did he do it out of arrogance, or fear? Should the team have instead suspended him pending the conviction, and perhaps offered to help him with counseling? What if it had happened mid-season, when the team is "set"? Better to send a message that there is zero tolerance? Or better to show that the team is behind its players even if they make stupid mistakes? There's a huge grey area to that decision too when you think about it.