Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Forced to Shut Down Twitter

November 29, 2011

Political Theory


On Thanksgiving Day, during a Dallas Cowboys football game, one of their cheerleaders, Melissa Kellerman, was accidentally tackled by Dallas’s tight end Jason Witten.  The incident was harmless, no one was seriously hurt.  Melissa smiled as Jason helped her to her feet making sure she was okay.  At first, the entire occasion put the Cowboys as a whole in a good light.  Jason acted as a gentleman and Melissa was good spirited.

The following day the cheerleader tweeted two times about the prior day’s occurrence.  In her tweets she said,

“Nothing hurtin’ today, like some of y’all thought I would be! Our TE isn’t as tough as he looks…That or I’m WAY tougher than I look.”

“I’m not the best at Jason Witten trust falls.”

Both of which were completely innocent, but the NFL franchise forced the cheerleader to shut down her twitter account because her tweets were getting a lot of attention and that attention was being drawn only to her.  The Dallas cheerleaders have been able to perform publicly on reality TV shows in the past.  These events created a lot of publicity for the cheerleaders, but in those situations the attention was being drawn to the group of them as a whole.  The Cowboys did not like that one of their own was getting individual attention off of this incident.  Even after she was forced to close her account she was not allowed to give any interviews about the situation.

In the Cowboys attempt to control the situation they were extremely unsuccessful.  By making her close her account media attention was pulled towards the subject.  Melissa ended up getting more attention than she would have if the team did nothing and the originally good image the team portrayed was quickly destroyed.

John Stuart Mills argues for absolute freedom of expression.  By stopping her in both being able to tweet and give interviews clearly imposed on Melissa Kellerman’s freedom of expression.  But the actions taken did not seem to be blocking any truth, the actions were taken to hinder the girl’s fame.  She was employed by the NFL so the team did not like the fact that Kellerman was using her employment to get the spotlight.

I do not think the Cowboys had the right to force her to shut down her twitter account.  Her twitter is not part of her job.  In American under the first amendment citizens have the right to freedom of speech.  Just because she was individually benefiting from her employment does not mean they can take away this right.  Nevertheless, Mills makes his argument of freedom of expression based on the idea that by interfering with this freedom truth could be blocked or restricted and interfere with the growth of knowledge.

Is it okay that the NFL franchise forced Melissa Kellerman to shut down her twitter, did they have the right to take those actions?  Would Mills disagree with their actions or would he not show much interest in this matter?

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Cowboys-cheerleader-knocked-over-by-Witten-force?urn=nfl-wp12519

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13 Comments on “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Forced to Shut Down Twitter”

  1. elyssashea Says:

    John Stuart Mill would definitely take interest in this situation. The NFL clearly infringed upon Melissa Kellerman’s freedom of expression in shutting down her twitter. As you mentioned, Mill was a proponent of using freedom of expression in order to glean the truth, and that basic principle is violated here.

    The only way in which the NFL’s actions would have been justified would have been if censoring Kellerman’s expression was covered by the Harm Principle. In the Harm Principle, Mill stipulated that it was justifiable for an individual to exercise power over another individual’s expression only if that individual was putting the other person in direct harm. Clearly, that is not the case with Kellerman because her words were merely words, with no derogatory undertone, and they did not at all threaten any other individual. The NFL seemed more concerned with the image of the entire team and maintaining the spotlight rather than protecting any particular individual.

  2. jacobdockser Says:

    I have to disagree with the author here. While I think it was unfair of owner Jerry Jones to force Kellerman to shut down her twitter page so abruptly, I can also see where the concern comes from within the organization. In cases like these, corporations and organizations such as the Dallas Cowboys often go into hyper-control mode, looking to control media attention.

    While Kellerman has every right to operate a twitter page, she must also realize that she is employed by one of the widely recognized sports team in the world and in doing so, she and what she says on twitter are representations of that team. I know what she said was truly harmless, but a control-freak, hands-on owner like Jerry Jones does not like his players being called anything short of “tough.”

  3. rfieds Says:

    This is an extremely interesting post because it deals with something we have witnessed quite often recently. The use of twitter by celebrities and those associated with widely recognized organizations has created immense problems and discourse. We have witnessed professional athletes vehemently voice their opinions on twitter concerning different issues and we have seen situations in which athletes were forced to pay consequences as a result of their actions. In this situation, I agree with the author that John Stuart Mill would not only find interest in such a topic, but would strongly argue that Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys organization were wrong in forcing the cheerleader to shut down her Twitter page. I would have to agree with the author in that a Twitter page is a form of free speech and should not be limited or eradicated unless the user is disturbing the peace or acting as a threat to society. I think that the cheerleader has every right to voice her opinions and thoughts about what happened despite the fact that the Dallas Cowboys are one of the most recognized football organizations in the world. That being said, I think that if the Cowboys found her Tweets to be in violation of their organization’s policy or if the comments were detrimental to the organization’s reputation or wellbeing, then that is on them to either make her shut down her page or fire her. In my opinion, I do not think her Tweets warranted the actions that Jerry Jones and the Cowboy organization took.

  4. lkpeacock Says:

    Melissa Kellerman would most likely not harm the Cowboys in any way, especially because she literally cheers for them. I think the Cowboy organization doesn’t think she will either. They most likely made her shut down her account because it was receiving a lot of comments and attention, and those who dislike or do not support the Cowboys make comments that are harmful to the team when an incident like this is displayed. People might feel it is easier to attack a team on Twitter.

    I agree, and think John Stuart Mill would not support the ban on her Twitter. Although, how much free expression can be done in a miniscule amount on characters on Twitter? Her texts did not harm anyone, and she was probably just trying to make light of the fact that she got trampled on national television. It is a shame that people’s sources of expression can be limited, and John Stuart Mill would argue that blocking her Tweets is bad for society. It prevents the society from learning about the whole situation and not having access to all the facts.

  5. bbarocas Says:

    First off, I do not agree with many things that Jerry Jones does. His handling of this “incident” is no exception. Kellerman did not do anything wrong, or harmful to the Dallas Cowboys organization, and should not have been forced to shut down her Twitter. I think that John Stuart Mill would be interested in this topic. Twitter is a way for individuals to freely express themselves, granted in only 140 characters or less. Mill would claim that the Cowboys preventing Kellerman from tweeting could hurt society. Mill is all about learning and allowing the truth to come out through all sides of a situation. Shutting Kellerman out does not allow that to happen here. Jerry Jones is and has always been a total control freak, and in my opinion is too hands on. He should have left this alone because it is very different then some of the other celebrity Twitter issues we have seen so far. If an athlete says something that has a truly undisputable effect on his or her team then I believe that the player should be subject to penalty. However, I still think that Mill would disagree because this could prevent society from learning the truth. Either way, this “incident” was far from damaging to the reputation of either the Dallas Cowboys or Jason Witten and most owners would have realized that. Unfortunately for Kellerman though, she works and lives in “Jerry World”, and this is something that she should be accustomed to by now.

  6. elmatts25 Says:

    At first, I disagreed with the author. I thought that it was reasonable for the Cowboys to ask Kellerman to shut down her twitter. As a professional cheerleader, Kellerman is employed by an incredibly public, incredibly successful corporation. Therefore, whatever she says publicly represents the Cowboys’ public image. Then, I went back and read her tweets. She never explicitly said anything about the Cowboys, she only wrote the player’s name. I don’t think it is tarnishing the Cowboys’ public image by tweeting about a famous professional athlete. His name is in the public domain, not directly affiliated with this cheerleader (before this incident), and she didn’t even use it in a negative way. I understand that the Cowboys went into excessive “damage control mode,” but in retrospect, they must realize it was excessive. Employment contracts are similar to social contracts, but in any contract there are hidden clauses, loopholes and confusions. After considering many sides to this controversy, I don’t think I can come to a conclusion of whether Kellerman’s freedom of speech was restricted. Are there hidden clauses in her employment contract that prevents her from tweeting about the players? Was it excessive or understandable? I remain undecided.

  7. acicurel Says:

    This topic is interesting because it takes a different perspective on the football celebrity twitter issue. Certain football players are becoming netorious for their tweeting and often recieve heavy fines from the league and their respective teams for their tweets. The tweets that are fined usually involve material that compromises the integrity of the NFL, the team, or the player. These two tweets do not do this and I think that it is rediculous that the Cowboys organization even cares. They were fun, lighthearted tweets from a cheerleader who just got trampled by a pro football player. Let her have her fifteen minutes of fame in the twitter world and move on. The Cowboys could even make this into a good situation by advertising that the cheerleaders are just as tough as the football players or something along those lines.

  8. lnk72792 Says:

    I don’t think it is okay for the Cowboys to tell her to cancel her twitter. Having said that, the NFL has been bombarded by issues with social networks, when players feel they have the liberty to say and do whatever they want. If none of that happened, the Cowboys would never have forced her to cancel it. I think that it is still crossing the boundary on freedom of speech and for that and that alone it was wrong. Mill would definitely disagree because he believed in the freedom of thought and expression, which was clearly taken away from the cheerleader.

  9. ceabee Says:

    I don’t think it is okay that the NFL franchise forced Melissa Kellerman to shut down her twitter following the Cowboys game where she was tackled by TE Jason Witten. While technically the NFL is Kellerman’s employer, I think they overstepped their boundaries by forcing her to take down her twitter account. Sure her tweets gained attention, but after a few days I’m sure people would have moved on to the next topic of discussion. Mills would absolutely disagree with their actions because he believed in the freedom of speech in order to introduce one’s thoughts and beliefs into the marketplace of ideas. The NFL could have first simply asked Kellerman to delete the tweets she had made in response to the incident, but the fact that they took such drastic measures so quickly seems a bit dramatic to me.

  10. Jason Cohen Says:

    The argument here can honestly go either way. On one hand, the cowboys were simply trying to limit the amount of attention this story got because they seem to not want headlines regarding cheerleaders and football players. If you think about it, NFL fans seldomly think about the cheerleaders unless they are watching them perform at a game. Yes, the Cowboys have had a reality show in order to cast new cheerleaders, but I think the franchise would rather keep all the attention on the football team.

    On the other hand, we as casual readers do not know the whole story, as it does appear the organization is attempting to limit her freedom of speech. But, what if she had signed a contract stating that she cannot tweet, or use social media to post about the football team. These details are no in this article so it is hard to take a stance for either side.

  11. jrsmyth177 Says:

    This is tough to determine because we are not sure if the Cowboys state that the cheerleaders are not allowed to tweet “bad” things about the team. If I had to choose a side I would disagree with what the Dallas Cowboys did. I think the NFL is turning into a way too serious professional league. They freak out about touchdown celebrations and now a team tries to stop a cheerleader from getting attention from a harmless joke. I think the NFL needs to lighten up and bring some fun into the game. Its okay to laugh a little. I think that they went too far when they forced her to shut down her twitter. The tweets were so harmless that this action makes the Cowboys look pathetic.

    As for Mill, I think that Mill would say that by not allowing the cheerleader to express her thoughts the Cowboys are robbing the human race. They are doing this because they are not allowing people to determine the truth. Mill was big on finding the truth from the adverse opinion. He said in the marketplace of ideas two opposing opinions clash to form the truth. By not allowing the cheerleaders thoughts into the marketplace of ideas, the Cowboys are not allowing the truth to come from the clash of the adverse opinions.

  12. ndreynolds864 Says:

    I think if the team wants her to shut her Twitter account down it is within the rights of the business to do so. Because in the end the Cowboys are a business and if they think that the attention the cheerleader is bringing to herself could end up affecting the business in a negative way they have the right to have her shut it down. The players have can be fined by the league for their tweets if deemed inappropriate or not in the manner the NFL would like to be portrayed because in the end you do represent your team and business. Although these tweets do not seem to be harmful if they team thinks that they will have a negative impact on them they do have the right to either shut down your twitter. In this case though I think this was a bit extreme but it is ultimately up to the team.

  13. ksoisson Says:

    I personally think that the actions of the Cowboys franchise were pretty ridiculous. Whether the Cowboys actually had the right to do so, I’m not so sure.
    I do however somewhat see why the Cowboys did what they did. They didn’t want any attention being taken away from “America’s Team.” But that being said, Melissa Kellerman has every right to a twitter account, and that’s why I believe the Cowboys crossed the line of freedom of speech. I also believe that Mills would take interest in this matter. He would argue that her freedom was infringed upon. In no way was Kellerman hurting the reputation of the Cowboys. Her freedom of expression was limited by the franchise. Even if there is some obscure written statement that cheerleaders can’t take attention away from players (which I highly doubt), she still would appear to have the right to be able to write about what happened. It turned out to backfire for the franchise anyway because she gained even more attention, which the Cowboys should have somewhat expected.

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