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Pirates president Coonelly says Curve's Sanchez wasn't being professional on Twitter

May 18, 2011 - Cory Giger
This should put an end to the Tony Sanchez "Twittergate" issue once and for all.

Pirates president Frank Coonelly said the team did not force Sanchez to stop using Twitter after a couple of controversial posts in the past two weeks.

Here's a Q&A with Coonelly, who joined me on my radio show Wednesday:

Q: Did the Pirates tell Tony Sanchez to stop tweeting or to shut down his Twitter account?

A: The Pirates did not tell Tony to shut down his Twitter account. We did have a conversation with him about his obligations as a professional baseball player, as a member of the Pirates organization and the standards of professionalism that we expect of all of our players and all of our employees, in fact. And following that conversation, Tony made a decision on his own to take down his Twitter account. But we did not in any way, shape or form tell Tony that he could no longer use Twitter as a means of communicating with friends, family and fans.

Q: How did the Pirates address Sanchez's tweet last week that was critical of the umpires?

A: We did talk to Tony after that. We received a call from Major League Baseball, who was concerned as all leagues are. … There's a professionalism standard within baseball as there are other leagues that it's not helpful to publicly criticize the officiating in the games. We understand that the umpires are trying to get the call right, and they're not out to bias one club or another and are trying to get the calls right. Both Major League Baseball called us and indicated their concern with those types of comments, and I understand that the Eastern League called our player development system, as well, and were considering a disciplinary action against Tony for that particular tweet. So we did have a conversation with Tony about that following the incident and informed that that was not a proper use, in our judgment, of his Twitter account.

Q: Was something said again to Tony after the tweet Monday about "only in Altoona" when he was discussing the woman with the thong and kid throwing fireworks at a gas station?

A: We did feel like we had to talk to Tony again as a result of that tweet, and we did have that conversation and principles of professionalism again were stressed with Tony as a result of that tweet. And I am supremely confident that Tony meant not disrespect to Altoona or to anybody living in Altoona. It meant to be funny, didn't mean to offend. … Any of use who live in the world of professional sports who deal frequently with the media and frequently with a very large and diverse fan base have gotten -- and I certainly have had my share of first-hand experience -- where you've said something and somebody interprets it or characterizes it in a manner that you didn't intend it to be. I'm certain that that's what happened here. Tony didn't mean to offend, but it does appear that some people took offense to it and that's not surprising. So that was another example of a use of Twitter that we thought was inappropriate and didn't live up to the standards of professionalism that we expect our players to live up to. And just to make another point because I did have somebody pass along to me some comments that have been in some blogs, we do have a social media policy with the Pirates organization. Major League Baseball has one. And we do provide our players with training on social media, appropriate use of and inappropriate uses of, and Tony had that training this spring training. We do have a policy, and all of our players are advised and counseled with respect to that. … I do know that several of our players are on Twitter on a regular basis and have used it in a manner that is what it's intended to be, and that is to engage fans, engage family and friends and what you're doing, what's going on in your life. All of that is appropriate, and none of it is banned by the Pirates organization or our policy. As a professional athlete, you have an obligation not only to yourself, but to your organization to act as a professional, and you need to understand -- and this is part of the training -- that although it may be a personal Twitter account, you are viewed as a member of this organization, and if you're offending people even when you're not intending to offend people, then it's the organization in their eyes that are offending them, as well. And that's why things like that are an inappropriate use of Twitter and not up to our standards.

Q: Is all of this Twitter stuff in the past for the Pirates, or will it be held over Sanchez's head at all?

A: Nobody's holding it over Tony's head. We love Tony Sanchez, love the player, love the person even more, and I think some important lessons -- life lessons -- are learned here and we move forward and look forward to Tony becoming a great Pirate player.

 
 
 

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