Wednesday marked the 12th anniversary of the attacks on America on 9-11-01. To commemorate the occasion, many took to social media on Twitter and Facebook to share stories of where they were on the morning of 9-11, to offer condolences to those who lost loved ones in the attacks, or to show support for the United States’ ongoing pursuit of somehow attempting to blend worldwide security for its people and interests while ensuring personal freedom. Twelve years on, it’s still a tough day to get through.
The Los Angeles Lakers, mindful of that somber mood, decided to tweet out their own tribute to those who had fallen 12 years before. The picture and hashtag the team chose was almost universally derided immediately by those who follow the team, or those who saw the re-tweets. Via Deadspin’s screen grab, here is the tweet:
The Lakers deleted it soon after. Not wanting to risk further inappropriateness in light of the anniversary, we at Ball Don’t Lie declined to comment on the Lakers misstep with a post. On Thursday, though, the team released an apology via email. Here, via Twitchy, is that email:
We apologize to anyone who took this differently than we intended and were therefore offended by it. We used a photo of how we commemorated 9/11 in the 2001-02 season, shortly after the tragedy occurred, because we wanted to show our support of what we felt at that time and continue to feel now. Out of respect for the intensely personal nature of how people remember this day, and that we recognize that not everyone understood the intent of our message, we pulled down our tweet and photo. Ultimately, our intent was to honor the spirit of remembering a day that we should all never forget.
As the team somewhat alluded to, they chose a picture of Kobe Bryant because of the 9-11 memorial patch on his jersey that the Lakers (and all other NBA teams) wore in 2001-02. The problem was that the patch wasn’t exactly prominently featured, as the picture of Bryant seemed to take center stage. Even those of us that understood right away that the team was attempting to show off the patch knew it was a poorly designed tribute.
And, frankly, the Phoenix Suns’ ham-fisted attempt to solemnly remember the events with a picture of a man in a gorilla suit and visible cheerleaders was far worse:
We understand social media directors, working in the front office of an NBA team and with hundreds of thousands (or, in the case of the Lakers, millions) of followers at your reach feeling a need to join in the discussion. In a way, it’s the 2013-version of being guilted into wearing an American flag pin or other red, white and blue accoutrement in the wake of the attack.
These teams (and these companies, as Joe Mande points out every year) don’t need to join in. We fans and followers utilize sports as relief from the everyday world – whether that world includes horrific attacks on our country, or something as relatively benign as a frustrating day at work. Teams (especially NBA teams, some month and a half before the start of their season) don’t need to dive in. They’re no less patriotic if they decline to release a flag-covered tweet (of all things) on the anniversary of 9-11.
And, as you saw above in both those since-deleted tweets, they can come off as insensitive and self-serving. No matter the original intent.