Friday night Dirk Nowitzki had a wide open three against the Minnesota Timberwolves and shot an airball.
You can see the play here.
As interesting plays go, it was relatively pedestrian. Nowitzki, who shoots, 38.4% from three this season and 38.2% for his career, does not airball wide open looks like this very often, but, as anyone who has ever played basketball before knows, no matter how good you are, sometimes you shoot an airball.
Bleacher Report decided to have some fun with the miss and sent out a Tweet that said, “Dirk Forever,” and featured the Price Is Right music they play when a contestant loses as the shot missed its mark. The Tweet attracted limited attention and would have faded into Internet oblivion except that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban took incredible offense to the Tweet.
So much offense, in fact, that Cuban dashed off an immediate email to Turner CEO David Levy and league commisioner Adam Silver!, stating as follows:
“You Tweet Dirk Forever and show him throwing up and air ball.
I expect an apology immediately or you can expect me to take a very strong stand in support of one of the greatest players of all time.
Who the fuck thinks this is remotely acceptable and why are they working for you David?”
David Levy, the CEO of all of Turner Media, not just Turner Sports, responded:
“Mark, good seeing in NOLA last weekend, and I did watch the shark tank special last night..great show..I will follow up with my social team, but reaching millenials and having them share and discuss topics, sometimes bold tag lines are used..around bloopers….Dirk is one of the best ever, there is no argument there.”
Cuban fired back:
“That wasn’t a blooper.
This wasn’t a discuss with your team issue David.
This is an issue where if it’s not down immediately, I will communicate with the millenials in the way I know how to.
Cuban then Tweeted out the entire communication when Bleacher Report didn’t immediately take the Tweet down.
Bleacher Report then backed down, deleting the Tweet and posting this apology.
Just when you think the NBA can’t get any bitchier, this happens. And I actually think this is a big story and I’m going to tell you why.
1. Mark Cuban is a cry bully.
For all of his talk about what a huge bully Donald Trump is, can you imagine the reaction if Donald Trump had emailed a media company upset over them posting an unflattering moment from one of his nominees testifying before Congress, and demanded that the media company take down their Tweet or he would publicly castigate them online?
Cuban, and every other Trump critic, would lose their minds the moment Trump posted that email exchange on Twitter.
And if the media company actually took down the Tweet there would be thousands of articles about how this represented the end times and the death of the first amendment.
Yet Cuban did that exact same thing about an issue that didn’t matter at all. He demanded Bleacher Report censor their opinion to protect the feelings of a grown man making hundreds of millions of dollars to play basketball and his billionaire boss.
Cuban, who we’ve invited to come on our Outkick morning show and who I generally respect, behaved as a cry bully and I lost a great deal of respect for him.
He managed to outTrump, Trump.
Which brings me to my second big point:
2. BLEACHER REPORT TOOK DOWN THE TWEET AND APOLOGIZED!
There was nothing wrong about this Tweet!
It wasn’t remotely offensive and posting that blooper represented the exact job description of the social crew running Bleacher Report’s account. Find fun viral content from NBA games and run with it.
Yet Bleacher Report didn’t just delete the Tweet, they apologized for it.
This should be the number one sports story in America right now and anyone with a functional brain should be destroying Bleacher Report here. At least Cuban was arguably standing up for his 38 year old star player here. Levy couldn’t stand up for his social media team too?
In fact, Turner CEO David Levy should have to issue a public apology to everyone at Bleacher Report for being a sniveling twit. Even if Levy didn’t believe the Tweet was in good taste — which it was — he should have had the balls to stand up to Cuban here. He should have reiterated his first email and let Cuban post the email exchange.
If he’d done so then Levy and Bleacher Report would have come off looking like the good guys here. They would have established editorial independence and proven their point in future disputes such as this one; we’re not going to be bullied.
What’s more, Levy, or someone on his well paid PR team, should have recognized that by deleting the original Tweet he was creating an infinitely bigger story than if he’d just left the Tweet up. This is why I don’t delete Tweets. If people don’t like what I Tweet, fine, but unless I’ve retweeted or tweeted something that I know to be wrong — for instance this past fall I got fooled by a fake Bruce Feldman account and deleted my RT of that account — I will never delete any Tweet I send.
People take screenshots and turn the deletion of your Tweet into a bigger story than the initial Tweet ever would have been. Once you delete a Tweet you are acknowledging that you did something wrong.
That’s why I’ve never deleted any non-news Tweet that I’ve sent in eight years on Twitter. And I wouldn’t ever do it. Moreover, I would stand up and defend anyone in any creative industry from the demand that they do so as well.
Some of you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal, it’s just one Tweet?” Well, I’ll tell you, the precedent has been set now. Once you acquiesce to a demand like this from Cuban, do you really think others aren’t going to make similar demands? Bleacher Report sold its editorial independence rather than face a few angry Tweets from Maverick fans.
David Levy had an opportunity to show everyone at Turner he had a backbone and was willing to stand up to a powerful antagonist. Instead, Levy failed and made it clear that he’s nothing more than Mark Cuban’s errand boy.
3. Here’s the biggest issue: what’s the point of having a website if you can only put up things that make your league partners happy?
If top NBA owners and league officials can dictate what Tweets Bleacher Report sends, what other demands are they making about content that never see the light of day?
Turner is paying over a billion dollars a year to the NBA. They are going to make most of their money from TV. That’s fine, I have no issue with that business arrangement. But don’t pretend that you’re going to independently cover the league then too. Just admit what you are, a business partner that only wants to provide coverage of positive NBA news.
If your website only exists to flatter the NBA, why pretend that I should come there for independent news? After seeing the way Bleacher Report responded here why should anyone reading Bleacher Report’s NBA coverage assume that it has been written or produced with independent thought going forward? Because clearly it hasn’t.
Independent thought and independent media matters, in sports and otherwise.
This weekend Bleacher Report had a chance to take a firm stand and establish its own editorial independence even when billionaire interests demanded otherwise.
Instead Bleacher Report demonstrated that no matter how many stories it may publish or readers it may have, it’s still Mark Cuban’s bitch.