Washington Redskins Fail The Twitter Test With Football Fans And Followers

from the oops dept

There’s an old saying in the legal industry that’s supposedly hammered into law school students: never ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer. That idiom can probably also be applied to corporations and their forays into social media: never start an online campaign or contest unless you know what the reaction of your audience is going to be. And, if a Mike Masnick can earn fame on the coinage of a term like “the Streisand Effect”, then perhaps I too can find myself a Wikipedia mention by coining what happened in the following story as “the Redskin Botch.”

Whatever you think of the debate over the name of the Washinton NFL team, let’s put that aside for the moment and focus on the complete failure of whoever is managing the Redskins’ Twitter account to anticipate the reaction to their latest call to arms. Like any mildly amusing story, it all starts with Harry Reid, who whipped up fifty senators to sign a letter to the NFL stating that it was time the Washington team changed its name. In response, the team’s Twitter account put out the call for fans to tweet Reid explaining why the team’s name apparently means so much to them, for some reason.

Tweet @SenatorReid to show your #RedskinsPride and tell him what the team means to you. — Washington Redskins (@Redskins) May 29, 2014

The tweet, the call, and the hashtag got more attention that the team could have hoped for, and caused a larger backlash than the team could have feared. Fans of the team or not, the response was the exact opposite of the team’s intention, with the overwhelming majority of respondents favoring the name change and offering their support to Reid, not the team. Some wonderfull highlights include:

#RacialSlurPride RT @Redskins: Tweet @SenatorReid to show your #RedskinsPride and tell him what the team means to you. — Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) May 29, 2014

Hey @Redskins and @HarryReid! To me #redskinspride is about normalizing overt racism in the 21st century. Did I do this right @Redskins ? — Bart Johnston (@MBJohnston12) May 29, 2014

#RedskinsPride because keeping the tshirt in my closet accurate is much more important than whole races of people — bd (@IHatebd) May 29, 2014

A really poor grasp of social media marketing? RT @Redskins: Tweet @SenatorReid to show #RedskinsPride & tell him what the team means to you — Hugh C. McBride (@hughcmcbride) May 29, 2014

As the post notes, even fans of the team reacted similarly, indicating that the last example I offered is perhaps the entire point. A failure to understand what reaction you’re going to get when you start a social media campaign is the Redskins Botch. And the failure wasn’t lost on the intended target, with Reid’s office commenting:

“The Skins tried to engage folks, and it has failed miserably,” Faiz Shakir, Reid’s digital director, told us. In the minutes after the Skins’ tweet, Shakir said “we haven’t found more than one or two that are actually supportive.”

A wonderful failure all around and it couldn’t have happened to better people, as far as I’m concerned.

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Comments on “Washington Redskins Fail The Twitter Test With Football Fans And Followers”

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Trevor says:

Open Letter to Companies:

If you want to have an effective social media presence, make sure you hire someone with actual social media experience and knowledge to run such a program.

Had you employed someone who understood twitter, s/he would have told you that IT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA.

Next time an idea like this is presented, FIRE THAT PERSON.


The Internet.

P.S.: If your company name is racist, CHANGE IT.

Tweeter McGee says:

Super Accurate Polling. Twitter Not.

Twitter is not exactly a super accurate polling method for determining support. Supporters of the status quo are likely to remain apathetic. Change advocates can’t shut their pie hole.

One of my favorite humorous scenes is from the Lone Ranger. He and Tonto were surrounded by Indians (Redskins), with no way to extract themselves. The Lone Ranger looked to Tonto and said, “Well, my friend, it looks like this is the end.” Tonto looked at him for a long time with sadness in his eyes and replied, “What do you mean, WE, white man?”

I support the right for any NFL to keep their team name no matter what it is. And if society requires change, it is time to require music groups like Butthole Surfers to change their name. Maybe if the ‘Skins changed their name to the Washington Wetspots it would be better?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Super Accurate Polling. Twitter Not.

“I support the right for any NFL to keep their team name no matter what it is.”

This isn’t a question of “rights”. The Washington franchise is free to call itself the Washington Wops, the Washington Kikes, the Washington Spics, the Washington Niggers, or any other equivalently-offensive racial/ethnic slur it can come up.

But we hope they will choose something better. We hope that they’ll realize it’s offensive and unacceptable. We hope that they’ll understand. We hope that they’ll mature. We hope that they’ll value being polite and civil over a misguided and outdated tradition. We hope that they’ll catch up to the rest of civil society, which has tried very hard to leave behind racism and bigotry, homophobia and xenophobia. We hope that they’ll recognize that it’s FRIGGIN’ 2014 and that calling your team the “Redskins” is a profoundly bad idea.

That’s what we hope they’ll do. But if they don’t…then should expect to be seen for what they are: racist assholes.

John Snape (profile) says:

Reid's offensive

Senator Reid’s very existence offends me. However, I’m not asking that he change his existence.

A normal, mature adult doesn’t get offended by ridiculous things, they get offended by things that matter, such as NSA spying, drones killing people and states instituting the “death penalty.”

Like many have said before, if you don’t like the team’s name, don’t watch them play and don’t support them by buying their merchandise.

CrushU says:

Double Standards

It’s a terrible thing to name a football team the Redskins.

It’s a perfectly okay thing to coin a phrase containing ‘Redskins’.

This is why I don’t take this issue seriously. Everyone that claims it’s so offensive also uses the word, without changing stride.

If it’s offensive, stop using it, stick to it. Don’t say it’s offensive and then in the next breath repeat it. It’s sorta like trying to say that you aren’t racist because you have nigger friends. It’s possibly true, but it undermines your message.

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