Grassroots social media campaign forms to protest NHL & NHLPA on Sept. 15th
When the last National Hockey League lockout began September 16, 2004, Twitter didn’t exist. Mark Zuckerberg was still enrolled at Harvard nursing an infant six-month-old Facebook while Tom Anderson ruled the budding social media industry as everyone’s first MySpace friend.
Eight years later, hockey fans once again anxiously await the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations battle to resolve before the September 15 deadline, fearing the second lockout in less than a decade.
However this time around, two fans have constructed digital picket signs to wave in front of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, team owners and the NHL Player’s Association as they argue over percentages.
The founders of @UnfollowNHLSept live hundreds of miles away but met on Twitter through a mutual love of hockey. Kerri, who tweets as @gardenfaithfull, is a Rangers fan in Long Island and Alexa, known as @QueenCrash, is a Blackhawks fan living in Chicago.
“It’s really hard for us to feel sympathetic to the players or owners just because they’re fighting over what seems like nickel and dimes,” Kerri explained. “They’re looking for more cash when the rest of us can barely afford playoff tickets. It’s hard for us to even be able to get to games and they’re fighting over all this money.”
On Saturday, they created a Twitter account, Facebook page and Tumblr all with one message: protest the possible lockout by unfollowing both sides of the CBA negotiation on Twitter and unliking their pages on Facebook – players, owners, the league and NHLPA. As this article is being written, their Unfollow NHL Twitter account has amassed 630 followers, Facebook tallied 80 likes and Tumblr account generated 11 notes.
The NHL’s official Twitter account has 1.3 million followers and 2.5 million Facebook likes while the the NHLPA has over 90,000 Twitter followers and 33,000 Facebook likes.
That’s a lot of likes to unlike.
Does Kerri think their grassroots campaign will cause the league and the NHLPA to trudge out from behind their respective bunkers and call it even? Well, no.
“They know that we’re unhappy,” she says. “But I think if we are able to make a strong statement together – not that we’re never going to watch hockey ever again – just that we are extremely dissatisfied with the way the NHL has handled their CBA negotiations.”
But not all fans fully agree with Kerri and Alexa.
Erin Cheeks posted on Facebook: “I don’t consider the players to be the NHL. They are employees, and the way I see it, they’ve done nothing wrong. I won’t unfollow my boys on Twitter. I’ll follow them more obsessively, actually. The owners though… they can shove it where the sun don’t [sic] shine.”
Kristal McCoy felt similarly: “You’re harming the players. The NHL isn’t even going to know this happened.”
Kerri defends her unfollowing of the players by saying it isn’t personal. “[It’s] not that we don’t still love them and love watching them play,” she explained. “But that we are really unhappy with the way they have handled the situation.”
Social media is an important aspect to Kerri’s hockey experience and creating the online campaign just made sense to her.
“Twitter is almost like, you watched the game together with all these people. When someone scores, Twitter explodes,” she says.
The founders say the Unfollow NHL campaign isn’t aimed to blacklist the league and create a band of NHL expatriates. Kerri just wants the scoreboard at Madison Square Garden to light up for another season.
“Hockey is the one thing we all go to, to get away from our problems, to get away from all the stuff we have in our lives,” she said. “When you get home from work and you’ve had a hard day, you know the game will be on at 7. When you take that away from us, it’s frustrating.”