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Union Wrangles 'NFL Lockout' Twitter Handle From Fans

When Roshan Shetty, Gaetano Barbuto and Rocco Tomasetto registered the @NFLLockout handle on Twitter earlier this year, the three friends never expected to get into heated negotiations with the NFL Players Association themselves.

But they say that’s exactly what happened soon after they started to use the handle to post news articles and commentary about the potential of an NFL lockout.

Twitter
Loic Venance | AFP | Getty Images
Twitter

They ribbed Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin when he tried to explain that players aren’t as rich as people think they are because the general public forgets that they have to pay taxes. They ripped union head DeMaurice Smith when he said he was confident the league would lockout the players at the end of the season.

That all stopped when the NFL Players Association was granted its supposed rightful claim to the Twitter account on October 7. It was the end to a bizarre exchange that the friends thought left them with control of the apparently valuable Twitter handle.

On October 4, Shetty, a medical student, said he was contacted over e-mail by union officials who mentioned that they had NFLLockout.comand NFL Lockout on Facebook. Shetty said they proposed some items they could give the trio of friends in exchange for the handle. In the end, Shetty, Barbuto and Tomasetto were unsatisfied with the offers.

“I’m 30 years old,” Shetty told CNBC. “I don’t need a lifesize poster of Mike Vick on my wall.”

After negotiations failed Shetty soon received this e-mail from Twitter:

Hello,

We received a valid report from the NFLPA regarding your original username, @NFLLockout. After our team reviewed your account, the use of the name 'NFLLockout' was deemed to be confusing under our entity impersonation policy. To resolve confusion going forward, we added two underscores to your username, now @NFLLockout__, and released the username to the reporting entity for their active use on Twitter. Also, please note attempting to sell a Twitter username is against Twitter's Terms of Service.”

The union might own domains related to the phrase, but the union doesn’t own the words “NFL” or “Lockout.”

Shetty said he tried to reach out to Twitter, but was unsuccessful. If he and his friends wanted to link stories about the NFL lockout, they now had to do it from a Twitter handle with two underscores at the end.

As to whether Shetty and his friends were holding out to make money from the NFLPA? Shetty says the friends registered the NFLLockout handle on Twitter before the union had its Web sites up.

"We didn't even think it would be worth anything," Shetty said adding, 'Heck, we might've just given it to them if they offered three tickets to an Eagles game."

Now the battle will play out in terms of number of followers. The current @NFLLockout handle, now owned by the union, has four followers, as does the @NFLLockout__ handle owned by Shetty and his two friends.

The NFL Players Association declined to comment on the specifics and a Twitter spokesman did not immediately respond to an e-mail request or phone call for comment.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com