A New England Patriots racist tweet that hit the team’s official Twitter feed yesterday was automatically generated by a promotion to celebrate its one-million-followers milestone. Once discovered, the New England Patriots racist tweet was immediately taken down by officials, who issued a prompt apology.
The fiasco has left millions of NFL and New England Patriots fans wondering wow something like a racist tweet could ever be allowed to happen. As unfortunate as it was, it’s quite simple: over-reliance on technology.
NFL players, teams and agents all use Twitter to better connect with fans and friends. The pressure to engage has become so high that dozens of companies such as HootSuite and others offer tweet automation software to do some of the heavy lifting. In many cases these types of automated systems can improve communications between players, teams and fans. In this specific instance, the reliance on automation software created the absolute wrong type of communication.
The New England Patriots racist tweet appeared Thursday afternoon as the Patriots were commemorating their one millionth Twitter follower. The celebration seemed cool: have fans retweet their milestone message for the chance to have that fan’s Twitter handle “printed” on a New England Patriots jersey.
Seems innocent enough, right? It would have been, if some inconsiderate person hadn’t created a Twitter handle of @Ihate[The N word] and used the account to retweet the Patriots’ message.
Just like that, the racial slur embedded in a Twitter handle was printed on a Patriots jersey and automatically appeared on the team’s Twitter feed, generating what appeared to be a New England Patriots racist tweet. In reality the team had nothing to do with the tweet itself, though its own promotion and automation software did enable the post to appear in the official Patriots feed for one million fans (and other onlookers) to see.
Fans immediately and justifiably reacted to the tweet, and team officials erased it as soon as possible. Thursday night the team issued an apology. Appropriately, the apology came via Twitter:
“We apologize for the regrettable tweet that went out from our account. Our filtering system failed, and we will be more vigilant in the future.”
Since the promotion to celebrate one million Twitter followers, the New England Patriots have picked up another 10,000+ followers.