The controversy over the Washington Redskins nickname is not going away anytime soon. In fact, the furor surrounding the banishment of the nickname to the history books is only growing.
The campaign to remove the nickname is now entering the mainstream political world as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has become one of the most vocal opponents of the Redskins. In fact, a letter urging the franchise to change the name was signed by 50 Democratic Senators just last week. (The letter was reportedly not circulated among Republicans, because why not make this a political thing that further tries to divide the country?)
Naturally, the Redskins responded with the public relations sensitivity of Godzilla smashing tall buildings and leaving entire cities in his wake.
It’s one thing for team executives to come out and fight back against the strengthening tidal wave against them. It’s another to try to take that fight to Twitter, where the Redskins had a terrible idea that was always going to backfire.
When will social media managers figure out that their clever hashtag campaigns almost always blow up in their face? We saw the same exact thing happen with #AskEmmert and #AskCommish. Instead of whipping up support with said clever hashtag, you immediately lose control of the narrative you are trying to build. By sending out a hashtag into the open waters of Twitter, you are only asking for it to be torn to shreds by hungry sharks. Quite predictably, the same thing occurred with #RedskinsPride.
Subverting hashtags from unpopular figures or brands with an incredible amount of snark is one of the things Twitter does best. Leaving aside the actual nickname debate for a moment, how the Redskins social media department didn’t have the foresight to see that is a head shaker. It’s reminiscent of the Ravens tone-deaf live tweeting of Ray Rice’s press conference last week. In this case, these official team accounts did more harm to their own cause than good. Emory University’s sports marketing analytics actually documented how disastrous the campaign was with the sentiment towards #RedskinsPride crashing to the point where the ratio was 4:1 with negative to positive tweets.
A spokesman for Reid’s camp said regarding the uprising against the #RedskinsPride hashtag, “It’s really made our day.”