Warren Sapp Honored At UCLA's Gravity Summit
Warren Sapp was honored with the Gravity Summit’s “Excellence in Social Media-Sports” award at UCLA on Wednesday.
According to Beverly Macy, CEO of Gravity Summit, the summit and its awards “are designed to highlight innovators in this important new communications platform.”
While Shaquille O’Neal was the true sports industry innovator in using Twitter to directly connect with fans, Sapp is following in Shaq’s footsteps as a user who believes that the connection between fan and player is of paramount importance.
“I feel it’s my duty to go back and forth with the people about whatever they want to know,” Sapp said. “I always think that if I had a chance to type to (Super Bowl champion) Tony Hill, number 80, Dallas Cowboys, and tell him what I was thinking and he typed back to me? I’d have been the happiest kid on God’s green earth.”
Even though Sapp, who's Twitter handle is the ever applicable @QBKILLA, is now receiving awards for his achievements in social media, he definitely was not an early adopter. Sapp’s tech savvy was slow to develop and possibly never would’ve gotten off the ground if it wasn’t for a colleague.
“I’m a caveman,” Sapp admitted to the audience on hand. “When they started texting (in the 90’s) I was like, ‘What?’ Just call me and leave me a message like everyone else. I have to thank (former ESPN personality and first on-air talent at NFL Network) Rich Eisen. He’s the reason I’m at three quarters of a million followers.”
Sapp said that Eisen persuaded him to participate by telling him that Twitter could be a direct connection to the people and that the connection should be personal and direct.
“Put a picture up there. It’s personal and it must be you,” Eisen told Sapp. He walked Sapp through step by step and showed him the difference between his wall of comments from people he follows and his @connections, where fans were talking straight to him. “When I discovered that,” Sapp said, “I didn’t go back to my regular timeline for two weeks.”
Sapp has come a long way from his (soon to be hall of fame) playing days. When he retired, “They didn’t have these (media preparation) bootcamps that they have for the players now. You were on your own,” Sapp said. Sapp still remembers his first on-air mistake that almost ended his media career before it started.
It was a live broadcast of Thursday Night Football and the NFL Network ran an in-game ad for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Sapp’s mic was still on and he could be heard in the background saying, “That ain’t real chicken.” Sapp believes that if Marshall Faulk hadn’t chimed in as well, his career would’ve certainly been over.
Despite the rocky start to his media career, the truth is that Sapp’s honesty and openness is the real reason that he was honored at the Gravity Summit. It was Sapp who best summed up why he was being honored in his acceptance speech. “I’m not gonna let another soul touch my Twitter, I promise you that. Every word that is tweeted is me. It’s my interaction with the people.”