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Away from football, former NFL execs find new audience on Twitter

'I try to be someone who can lend insight and information and perspective.'

Feb 29, 2020, 12:02 pm*

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Josh Katzowitz

When Amy Trask used to see a TV cameraman headed her way, she quickly would change direction and walk somewhere else. She’d juke and jive, cut this way and that. She did not want to appear on the camera, and she’d do everything she could to avoid it. 

It’d been that way ever since she was a child. Look through her family’s photo albums, and you’d notice a distinct lack of Amy. Her biggest fear, Trask says now, was being caught inside a camera’s viewfinder—stuck in the spotlight—and having all the eyes and ears trained on her.

In fact, at the headquarters of the Oakland Raiders, where Trask was the team CEO for 16 years under owner Al Davis, who had a predilection for drafting a multitude of speedy wide receivers that would never amount to anything, the running joke went something like this:

“When I saw a television camera coming toward me,” Trask said, “they would tell me that I ran so fast the other way that Al Davis would have signed me to a contract.”

It wasn’t that Trask hated the media or the reporters who worked in the field. It was that, in her position, she had to carefully think about every word she spoke, because, aside from her disdain of the spotlight, she was representing herself, her team, boss, and league when she gave an interview.

They used to lurk behind the scenes and away from the cameras. Now, they fill your timelines with insights and opinions. 

“After almost 30 years with the team, I watched every single word coming out of my mouth,” Trask told the Daily Dot. “I was very measured.”

This week, though, Trask is in Santa Clara, California, for Super Bowl 50, working with CBS as one of its football analysts and engaging in her newest love—growing and maintaining what she calls her Twitter village. She’s open and honest and funny on social media, and she’s one of a number of former league executives and general managers who have taken to Twitter to share their thoughts and ideas on the game. 

They used to lurk behind the scenes and away from the cameras. Now, they fill your timelines with insights and opinions.

Along with Trask, others like Ted Sundquist (the former Broncos general manager from 2002-08) and Andrew Brandt (who was a former player-agent and the Packers vice president from 1999-2008) have made their Twitter presences felt. And it’s allowed fans to get to know them better while learning more about the game they love.

“What I try to be right now is someone who can lend insight and information and perspective, having been on both sides of the ball—the players’ side as an agent and on the team side,” Brandt said on a 2014 edition of the Digital and Social Media Sports podcast. “My life now is [using] my knowledge and insight in a way that more people can understand things.”

Sundquist was encouraged to log onto Twitter when he was the director of player personnel with the Omaha Nighthawks in the now-defunct United Football League. He admits he had no idea what to do or what to expect, but soon after, he realized the positives.

“Through some trial and error, [I had] a better understanding of how it can be used to market and promote various things I was engaged with; I became much more involved with folks out there wanting my viewpoint on things,” Sundquist wrote in an email to the Daily Dot. “…Being involved with media through radio, TV, and writing, it gives me an opportunity to hear what fans think and receive feedback on the points I’m trying to get across.”

For obvious reasons, Trask couldn’t—and wouldn’t—have shared herself on Twitter if she was still employed by the Raiders, where she started in 1987. She remained there, running the team and sprinting away from reporters, until Davis died in 2011. Nineteen months later, she resigned without knowing her next step. But she knew one thing—social media was out. Even after she was hired by CBS Sports to work as a TV analyst, she hated the idea of signing up for Twitter.

“It was absolutely, positively that I was never going to tweet,” Trask said. “My aversion to it was my background. When you are a businessperson, it’s very rare when you see someone like Jim Irsay [the owner of the Colts who’s a strong NFL tweeter). It’s not part of the business world. I swore I would never do it. I held it in disdain.”

Until one day, seemingly out of the blue, she simply changed her mind. Trask told her husband, and he had one simple question: “Who are you and what have you done with my wife?” Occasionally, after she began tweeting, he’d walk through the room, see her tweeting, catch her eye, and sadly shake his head in mock contempt.

But her humor and enthusiasm quickly translated to social media, and with her entry onto Twitter, she immediately rehashed the famous Tuck Rule game from 2001 when the Patriots beat the Raiders in the playoffs after a late-game fumble from New England quarterback Tom Brady was overruled because of an arcane rule.

And Trask hadn’t forgotten it.

But settling old scores isn’t why Trask signed up for her account, and though she had no clue she would eventually feel this way, she now sees Twitter as a net positive for humanity.

“I refer to my Twitter group as my Twitter village,” Trask said. “I love my Twitter village. I talk all the time on Twitter about disagreeing and the ability to listen to those with opposing views, and that when we disagree, we should do so agreeably. My Twitter village has embraced that. I’m not getting that [usual vile Twitter] reaction. I like to think it’s because we’re cultivating that in my Twitter village.”

Sundquist seems more interested in talking football and about his experiences inside the game, and he’s become even more transparent about how and why he’s still searching for a GM job. That thought process—and the fact that neither he nor Trask has had to deal with much Twitter negativity—has led Sundquist to the belief that modern GMs could and should use the medium to make themselves and their day-to-day decisions more opaque.

“I highly encourage that they do,” Sundquist wrote. “I think many times guys and gals currently in the League get all wrapped up in their own world and start treating professional football like it’s National Security. I can assure you that it’s not. Sure there’s a lot at stake in the business (usually money and job security at the personal level), but the general feeling, whether real or perceived, that the fans are a bother, shouldn’t be an impediment to reaching out. In fact the medium makes it easier to do just that. 

“I’d encourage current presidents and GMs to let their fans know what you were thinking, the amount of effort that was put in to make the decision, the pros and cons of the situation/scenario, and how you think it will benefit your team and organization in the long run. There are a lot words that can be used to communicate without ‘giving away the launch codes,’ if you get what I mean.”

Fans, of course, are interested, and on some level, they probably deserve the right to know a little more than they do. They are the ones, after all, who pay the high costs of personal seat licenses, tickets, merchandise, parking, and concessions when they support a team.

For now, fans don’t get much access to a team’s thought process directly from the GM’s mouth, but people like Trask, Sundquist, and Brandt have given them a better idea about what happens when the cameras are off.

“There just seems to be an appetite [for the fans to learn about] the business of sports and the law of sports and for deeper issues,” Brandt said. “I try to take people behind that curtain.”

Photo via Kevin/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0) 

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*First Published: Feb 6, 2016, 11:00 am