Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard is drawing flak for using the up-to-140-character publishing tool to call out the Orlando Sentinel for what he called “dumb articles.”

And the Ultimate Fighting Championship just announced a contest encouraging its mixed martial arts fighters, at least in part, to compete for Twitter followers.

In five years, Twitter has become an increasingly valuable tool for communication, powerful enough to help spur uprisings in the Middle East that have toppled governments.

But it has also proved that when it’s used recklessly, Twitter, which instantly transmits unfiltered “tweets,” can cripple one’s reputation.

Many incidents have resulted in fines, suspensions and discussions about team and league-wide bans of Twitter, with many sports figures hiring social-media experts to avoid mishaps.

“You can start up a business and you can build a brand very quickly” with Twitter, said Gene Grabowski, a senior vice president with Levick Strategic Communications in Washington.

“But the downside is, you can destroy a brand very quickly.”

Experts blame a lack of social-media training coupled with Twitter’s simple and accessible interface for many of the missteps.

“Some people just don’t realize the harm you can cause,” said Ellyn Angelotti, a faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a journalism school in Florida, who examines social media and digital trends. “Some of these processes aren’t really inherent to people who don’t do journalism.”

There is also the misconception that short messages are trivial, said Thomas Cooper, author of “Fast Media/Media Fast” and a professor of visual and media arts at Emerson College in Boston.

“The shorter the message,” Cooper said, “the easier it is to distribute and the easier it is to understand.”

Or, in Mendenhall’s case, to misunderstand. The night Osama bin Laden’s killing by U.S. forces was announced, the 23-year-old Pittsburgh Steeler tweeted, “What kind of person celebrates death?” while also questioning Al Qaeda’s role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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