I've been reading a book called God Save the Fan, by Will Leitch, founder of Deadspin. Deadspin, of course, is an independent sports Web site Leitch started because he felt the people who should be reporting sports news (i.e. ESPN) wouldn't report things in an unbiased manner for fear of damaging their relationship with different sports leagues.
Anyway, in his book, one of the chapters talked about how people idolize players that, if they met them in person, they would not really like. For example, it's easy for me to say Derek Jeter and David Wright and Eli Manning seem like nice people, but I've never met them, and can't know for sure. I'd assume they are similar to most of us, in that they have bad days, make bad decisions sometimes, and have their own insecurities. In the past, the only way players and the masses generally communicated was through press conferences with local reporters who wouldn't always publish everything a player said, for fear of damaging their relationship with the player and team. If I work for the local NBC affiliate and made a certain player angry, the player (and perhaps his teammates) might just give important news to the CBS affiliate, damaging my ability to do my job.
As I have discussed in the past (here, here, here, and here), leagues have tried to crack down on Twitter use, in part to protect the league and in to protect the players from themselves.
The NFL is at a crossroads at the moment. The collective bargaining agreement has run out, and no one is quite sure if the NFL will exist in the fall. Some players are not happy with that idea, and Antonio Cromartie (cornerback, for the NY Jets) called out the union leadership. A player from the Seahawks, Matt Hasselback tweeted (and then deleted) a comment saying someone should ask Cromartie if he knew what CBA stood for. Of course, this could have been a joke, but you can't hear the tone of a message over the Internet. Hasselback apparently decided to delete the message, but once you publish, people see it!
Of course, Cromartie took offense to this, and instead of calling Hasselback and talking with him, tweeted that he will smash Hasselback's face in. Really.
Just because you are a professional athlete doesn't mean you are professional (see: Rae Carruth, Lawrence Phillips, etc.).
So, who knows if Hasselback is a jerk, or if Cromartie really wouldn't smash someone's face in over a comment. Either way, the way news is reported is changing.