For NASCAR drivers and other athletes, fines can make Twitter a very expensive habit.

TAKE THE CASE of Denny Hamlin, a driver fined earlier this season for making detrimental comments about NASCAR following a race in Illinois.

While NASCAR has kept the details of the fine–including the amount–on the down-low, Hamlin has said he believes that the league punished him over the content of some of his post-race tweets.

In a Twitter back-and-forth with a sports blogger after the race, Hamlin was critical of a late-race debris caution, and suggested that the race “was fixed”:

@dennyhamlin: Truthfully I don’t think It matters to the fans who wins the race as long as its a good “show”. Even if it comes as the expense of competition

@dennyhamlin: AND. fyi that debris caution caused over 500k in damage to 10 wrecked racecars at the end of that race. no big deal huh?

While NASCAR’s been mum on how much Hamlin was fined, Sports Illustrated and other sources have suggested that the fine may have been as high as $50,000.

NBA bans Twitter, but others encourage it
Other sports leagues have put rules in place limiting players’ use of social media. We wrote in December about the NBA’s own Twitter rules, which prohibit players from tweeting immediately before, during, or after games.

Other leagues have left tweeters alone. Lance Armstrong’s tweets during the Tour de France have often been critical, sometimes complaining about the multiple drug tests he’s had to take.

Still others, like the LPGA, have encouraged players to tweet.

NASCAR differs in that it has restricted not just when, but what drivers say in their tweets. According to Ramsey Poston, a NASCAR spokesperson, it’s an issue of protecting the sport.

“It’s the sanctioning body’s obligation on behalf of the industry and our fans to protect the sport’s brand,” he said in a statement. “Any action taken by NASCAR has nothing to do with the drivers expressing an opinion. It’s focused on actions or comments that materially damage the sport.”

In interviews, most drivers have been supportive of the way that NASCAR handled Hamlin’s fine, though it is unclear whether they might be censoring themselves for fear of also being fined. Jimmie Johnson, a four-time champion, said that he thought NASCAR acted responsibly by keeping Hamlin’s fine quiet.

“If it’s good for our sport, I have no problem with keeping it secret.” Johnson said.

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