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NFL overhauls its social media policy just 7 weeks after last change

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

Just seven weeks after making controversial changes to the social media policy that governs its 32 teams, the NFL is changing the policy again, Yahoo Finance has learned.

NFL executives Brian Rolapp and Hans Schroeder sent a memo on Friday afternoon to all teams, detailing the changes, which take effect immediately. The changes are extensive and explicitly apply to platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Periscope, and YouTube.

In the memo, obtained by Yahoo Finance, the league says the changes, “are consistent with objectives we have discussed with Clubs, including growing League and Club presences on social media, and evolving our national and local model while best positioning the NFL for long-term success.”

Going big on Giphy and homemade GIFs

The changes include a “test agreement” between the NFL and Giphy, the free GIF server, which will last until June 2017. The deal makes Giphy “the source of high quality and authentic NFL GIFs of ancillary game and historical/iconic content,” the league writes.

The NFL has also raised its cap on how many videos each team can post on a game day, from 8 to 16 videos per platform.

Most importantly, teams were previously not allowed to post any video clip at all during the “game window” (which the NFL defines as lasting from kickoff until one hour after a game ends) before the league makes that clip available on an internal server.

For example, if a player like Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce makes a great play for a touchdown and follows it up with a celebration, the Chiefs could post a video clip, GIF, or Vine video on any official Chiefs account until the NFL has made a clip of that moment available on its server, from which the teams’ social media managers can pull files.

Now, under the new policy, teams are allowed to post non-highlight video (not footage of a play) such as video showing halftime ceremonies, cheerleaders, mascots, or fans, and can post those videos during the game window, independently of the league server. Those videos do count toward the 16-video maximum.

Teams were previously not permitted to create and post their own GIFs during a game, period. Under the new policy, they can now make and post their own GIFs of fans, cheerleaders, mascots, Madden video game graphics, and touchdown dances—basically anything other than live game plays from on the field.

(Interestingly, touchdown celebrations have been controversial this season in two different ways: players like Josh Norman and Antonio Brown getting fined for celebrations that the league deemed inappropriate, and teams wanting to post instant video of touchdown celebrations.)

Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates a play. (AP)

More options on Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook Live

On Snapchat, teams were not previously allowed to post any footage of live game action. Teams can now post five “snaps” of live game action per game.

On Facebook, teams can now choose any three “non-gameday press conferences” per week to broadcast on Facebook Live. One of them must be a “player interview outside of a formal press conference setting.”

Before a game, teams previously could not post any live video. They can now post a live video on Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or Periscope, with a maximum duration of 15 minutes. The stream must end no later than 15 minutes before kickoff, and must include promotion of the game.

When promoting a game on Twitter, teams can now choose not to mention other teams in their promotions of the game. Instead, they can simply promote the game, using language like, “Watch TNF on NFL Network.”

Previous policy change was loudly rebuked

The NFL typically reevaluates its social media policy every six months. That it would make changes so quickly after its previous round of changes is a sign that it has heard the vocal complaints about its current rules.

The previous round of changes, which took effect on October 12, added the threat of fines up to $100,000 if teams post in-game video footage to their social media accounts before the league made the footage available. That rule is still the case for live footage of a game play.

The threat of big fines was new this season; the cap on the total number of in-game videos a team can post, and the parameters of the game window, were not new additions.

Waiting for the league to make a clip available is an aggravating hurdle for team social media managers, one such person told Yahoo Finance this week, speaking anonymously. “The league says they never miss a viral moment,” the person said. “Yes they do. And if they don’t put up a certain clip, we can request it, but I don’t have that time. During the game, I’m doing a million things, I can’t send an email request with the description and the exact time in the game that a moment happened. It’s all very insulting.”

A source at the league offices framed it differently, telling Yahoo Finance last week, “I think what the teams have a hard time recognizing is that it’s bigger than them.”

An NFL spokesperson now tells Yahoo Finance, “This latest update to our social media policy is the fourth such change over the last 18 months and reflects improvements based on the feedback we got from working with the 32 clubs on how best to serve their fans.”

NFL team social media managers tell Yahoo Finance the new changes are “positive” and show that the league, which appears to be coming out of its long television ratings slump, has paid attention to criticism of its policy.

Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite. Sportsbook is our recurring sports business video series.

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