In a bizarre and somewhat chilling development, the Miami Marlins were the first to publicly announce the death of boxing icon Muhammad Ali on Friday night.
The image appeared at 10:05 p.m. ET, a little less than two hours before media reports of Ali's death began to surface, and a little more than two hours before Ali's family confirmed the news.
Marlins announce Muhammad Ali is dead. No media outlets reporting this. A closer look at image shown to fans: pic.twitter.com/XzwZtiudzD
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) June 4, 2016
Understandably, the Marlins drew criticism for running the image before news of Ali's death had been reported or confirmed. However, team president David Samson defended the decision, citing that a person close to the family had confirmed the news to Marlins' brass and that they simply wanted to act fast to pay tribute.
“It was not an error,” Samson later told the Miami Herald. “We were informed by someone close to the family that he had passed away. We wanted to get a tribute out as soon as we possibly could.”
It's a story where being right is more important than being first, but the Marlins were obviously confident they were given the correct information. Even still, it would be understandable if people felt they were too anxious to spread the message.
Just announced at the Marlins game the goat has passed 😢 Muhammad Ali pic.twitter.com/tXnTJaXTIJ
— 1999 PEDRO MARTINEZ (@b0ss561) June 4, 2016
Worth noting, Ali did have a close relationship with several notable people inside the Marlins' organization, including owner Jeffrey Loria. In fact, Ali threw out the ceremonial first pitch when Marlins Park opened in 2012. His likeness is also prominently featured in the Marlins clubhouse, where a plaque containing one of his quotes is displayed.
“He’s an important part of our organization,” Samson said. “He opened our new ballpark. Being that he had thrown out the first pitch of this ballpark, and has a close relationship [with the Marlins], we wanted to honor him as quickly as possible. His legacy will live forever.”
It's clear the Marlins had good intentions, but it's another unique circumstance where their judgment could be called into question.
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