After the Cleveland Cavaliers' 106-91 victory in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series with the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, word began to circulate online that the Cavs had shown a curious and questionable comedy skit on the big screen at Quicken Loans Arena during a break in play:
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Strangest thing of night: when videoscreen showed skit of a guy in Cavs gear throwing girlfriend across room until she removed Bulls gear.
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 7, 2015
@EthanJSkolnick I was surprised more people weren't offended by it. Came off very unaware to me.
— Nubyjas Wilborn (@nwilborn19) May 7, 2015
@EthanJSkolnick he slams her, she's wearing an ice pack & she was to one to apologize while changing her behavior. Awful message.
— Nubyjas Wilborn (@nwilborn19) May 7, 2015
This all sounded pretty crazy, and made me wonder if we'd wind up seeing the full video of the bit to be able to judge it in context and see if maybe something got lost in translation. A link to the clip popped up on Thursday morning and began making its way across Twitter, generating an awful lot of "WTF?"-style responses aimed at the Cavaliers.
The video was promptly deleted, but — this being the Internet — that didn't mean it was gone:
A young man wearing a T-shirt bearing the Cavaliers' "ALL IN" playoff logo stops as he walks through his kitchen, excited to hear "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," the soundtrack to the climactic final dance scene in "Dirty Dancing," playing on the radio. A young woman in an apron standing at the kitchen sink says, "That's our song." She turns around and they start sort of dancing at one another. (This is actually pretty good.)
The man turns back to the young woman, who has now shed her apron and is wearing a Bulls T-shirt. She runs at him and jumps, aiming to hit that Jennifer Grey-on-Patrick Swayze lift; he catches her in the air, sees her shirt, and throws her to the ground.
"Bulls fan?" he asks, incredulous. "I didn't know you were a Bulls fan."
He walks away from the young woman he just threw on the floor, saying, "I can't believe she's a Bulls fan."
The young woman lies holding her stomach in pain on the floor. She fades to the background as the Cavs' "ALL IN" logo comes to the forefront. A voiceover pipes in: "When it's playoff basketball time, you have to be all in. So don't make the same mistake she made."
The clip then cuts to the man and woman sitting on a couch. She's now wearing a navy blue "ALL IN" T-shirt and holding a bag of ice to the side of her head.
"I thought you were all in," he tells her.
"Well, I'm all in now," she replies. "Let's just watch the game."
Cut to a close-up of the young man, satisfied.
"Go Cavs," he says.
The clip's intended as a step-for-step spoof of this "Dirty Dancing"-inspired United Healthcare commercial:
Where it differs, of course, is that the accidental crash of the United Healthcare ad gets replaced by an intentional act, and that the direct and uncontroversial message of the former ("There are thousands of ways into the complex health care system," and we can make dealing with it simpler) gets replaced by ... well ... "Don't make the same mistake she made." While calls for heads to roll at the Q must also consider the fact that the young woman who performed in the skit and initially posted it to Vimeo is a team production assistant and award-winning editor, those are pretty big and problematic differences.
With domestic violence standing as a major problem in society at large and sports in particular, and one from which the NBA certainly isn't immune, it's fair to wonder how the Cavaliers' media team allowed this to proceed from pitch to production to broadcasting in front of a sold-out arena at a playoff game and, now, to a much larger audience beyond without considering how the changes from the source material might impact the way the commercial came across. Moving forward with it seems, at best, tone-deaf, ill-considered ... and, in an environment in which emojis can cost you your job, rife with potential consequences.
The Cavaliers issued an apology Thursday afternoon:
During a timeout at last night’s Cavaliers vs. Bulls playoff game at The Q in Cleveland, we ran a 1-minute in-arena video that was intended to be a humorous spoof on a popular commercial centered on a song and dance from the classic movie ‘Dirty Dancing.’ While the video was not intended to be offensive, it was a mistake to include content that made light of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a very serious matter and has no place in a parody video that plays in an entertainment venue. We sincerely apologize to those who have been affected by domestic violence for the obvious negative feelings caused by being exposed to this insensitive video.
The Cavaliers organization has a strong and lengthy track record of supporting domestic violence-related causes and efforts. We will continue to proudly work with our regional partners at the Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center in support of their numerous programs to end domestic violence in our country once and for all.
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