The Las Vegas Raiders' official Twitter account sent out one of the worst-received tweets in team microblogging history last night. In response to Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin being found guilty in the murder of George Floyd, the team opted for a message of "I Can Breathe" and yesterday's date.
It was immediately ratioed and criticized. As the minutes grew, there was a universal sense of disbelief that the tweet not only remained up, but was pinned to the account. Speculation about the sequence of events that could lead to such a misstep abounded. From the outside, it seemed as though the reason it wasn't yet deleted was because the most powerful person in the organization didn't want it to be deleted. That this was the exact message they wanted to send, even if there was some internal pushback.
A few hours later, Davis confirmed the first part of that scenario.
“That’s my tweet. That was me,” Davis told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I don’t want anyone in the organization taking heat. I take full responsibility for that.
“I was driving home from a meeting (Tuesday) when the verdict came in. Soon after, I was listening to George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, speak. And he said, ‘Today, we are able to breathe again.’ I took my lead from him. In my mind, that was all I needed to say — ‘I can breathe.’
“I think justice was served. It’s rare I make statements about anything and if I thought it offended the (Floyd) family, I would feel very badly and apologize. Other than that, I’m not apologizing. I honesty believe after listening to Philonise, this is a day that we can all breathe."
One one hand this is fairly reasonable. It would be a truly bizarre move to intentionally inflame passions or upset a grieving family. On the other, his words sounds like those of a person who truly believes public sentiment is going to come around to be on his side, which is never going to happen.
ESPN's Michelle Steele made a salient point here about the owner having strong feelings on a subject he admittedly doesn't fully understand, highlight the folly of having him serve as architect for organizational messaging.
Davis told the Review-Journal that he "relayed the words to team personnel" so they might be shared. There were surely concerns and pushback about the messaging. Ultimately, though, the decision was made to send the graphic out into the world and the predictable sequence of events took place.
There should be some credit afforded to Davis for owning up to the misfire, and doing what he can to take the focus off the communications staff. But this incident is going to be a lingering problem for them. The internet is forever and most people active on Twitter are not bending over backwards to forgive or forget.
The Raiders account can go back to messaging about intrasquad scrimmages featuring Clark County School District student-athletes. It won't really undo the damage.
It appears those who are tasked with bearing the brunt of public distaste will be in the same situation going forward as they were last night. Both not responsible for the controversy and largely unable to do anything about it. Doesn't feel like a great situation.