The growth of social media has given athletes a forum to express their unfiltered views and connect directly to their fans. Here's a look at some of the most memorable social media postings of 2012, for better or for worse:
Tim Thomas, NHL
"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People. This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government. Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL. This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT" — Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas on his Facebook page Jan. 23.
The 2011 Stanley Cup champion Bruins were scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in late January, but the Conn Smythe winner skipped the photo op. Later that day, Thomas wrote on his official Facebook page decrying the growth of government.
Los Angeles Kings, NHL
"To everyone in Canada outside of BC, you're welcome." — Los Angeles Kings official Twitter feed ((at)LAKings), April 12.
The Kings' PR department got a little cheeky on Twitter after the Kings upset the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 in Game 1 of their first-round series in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Canucks fans were upset by the post, but the eighth-seeded Kings went on to beat Vancouver in five games and win the Stanley Cup on June 11.
Brett Lawrie, MLB
"Pretty sure someone just let off a round bullets in eaton center mall .. Wow just sprinted out of the mall ... Through traffic ..." — Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie ((at)blawrie13), June 2.
Lawrie, from Langley, B.C., went shopping at Toronto's Eaton Centre to blow off some steam after the Blue Jays' 7-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox. He ended up making news as he tweeted about the shooting of five mall-goers in the downtown shopping centre's food court. Two of the victims were killed and Lawrie was widely credited with breaking the story on his popular Twitter feed.
Voula Papachristou, Olympics
"With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food!!!" — Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou ((at)papaxristoutj), July 25.
Papachristou was supposed to compete in the London Olympics but was expelled by the Hellenic Olympic Committee after her racist tweet about African immigrants in Greece. The posting was also in response to a small outbreak of the West Nile virus in Greece that killed one person and left at least five ill. She posted an apology online after her expulsion and hasn't tweeted since.
Christine Sinclair, Olympics
"I would like to thank everyone back home for all the love and support. It means the world to us all. One more game to get on the podium" — soccer forward Christine Sinclair ((at)sincy12), Aug. 6.
Canada's women's national soccer team captivated the country throughout the London Olympics. The biggest game of the tournament was Canada's 4-3 semifinal loss to the United States in extra time, with suspect calls by Norweigan referee Christiana Pedersen tilting the balance in the Americans' favour. Sinclair, of Burnaby, B.C., led Canada throughout the tournament and tweeted her thanks after the frustrating loss. The Canadians went on to win bronze.
Georges St-Pierre, UFC
"I'm now medically cleared to compete in mixed martial arts events- Rendez-vous le 17 novembre, (at)ufc 154, Montreal!" Georges St-Pierre ((at)georgesstpierre), Aug. 20.
St-Pierre, the UFC's reigning welterweight champion, had been sidelined 19 months with an injured ACL. The Montreal native tweeted in August that he was ready to return to the Octagon, setting the stage for a championship bout at the Bell Centre in November. GSP went on to defeat interim champion Carlos Condit at UFC 154 to unify the welterweight title.
Lance Armstrong, Cycling
"My official statement re: (at)usantidoping's pitiful charade http://bit.ly/Ozm7XZ" — disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong ((at)lancearmstrong), Aug. 23.
Armstrong had won the prestigious Tour de France seven times but accusations of steroid use dogged him for years. In late August, Armstrong learned he would be stripped of all his cycling results by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, dating back to Aug. 1, 1998. He pre-emptively announced via Twitter that he would not contest the USADA's decision. Armstrong's official statement has since been removed from his website.
Drew Brees, NFL
"I love this league and love the game of football, but tonight's debacle hurts me greatly. This is NOT the league we're supposed to represent" — New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees ((at)drewbrees), Sept. 25.
Replacement officials were used for the first three weeks of the NFL's regular season as the league negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement with the referees' union. Outcry among players and fans grew to a crescendo after replacement officials made conflicting calls, handing the Seattle Seahawks a 14-12 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football. Brees gave a voice to the frustrations of many with his critical tweet. A deal was announced between the NFL and its refs four days later.
Nik Lewis, CFL
"I just bought OJ's gloves on eBay. Now all I need is a white girl named Nicole .maybealittletofar" — Calgary Stampeders slotback Nik Lewis, ((at)nikel18), Nov. 12.
Lewis was in the CFL's doghouse after making a distasteful joke about the murder of Nicole Brown-Simpson, the ex-wife of former NFL star O.J. Simpson. Although Lewis soon deleted the message, he was fined an undisclosed amount by the league for violating its social media policy. Lewis apologized repeatedly and donated the paycheque from his next game — the CFL's Western Final — to a women's charity.
Joffrey Lupul, NHL
".(at)realsports is not allowed to take reservations from Leafs players during the lockout but will continue selling our jerseys for $300 a pop" — Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul ((at)JLupul), Dec. 16.
In mid-December, Lupul tweeted that he was unable to make reservations at Real Sports, a popular Toronto sportsbar owned by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment across from Air Canada Centre. Teammate James van Riemsdyk replied, saying "same thing happened to me a month ago .amateurhour," but he quickly removed that response from his feed. MLSE chief operating officer Tom Anselmi later denied that Real Sports barred Lupul because of the NHL lockout, saying the restaurant was simply full.