Mike Wise

ESPN announced Tuesday it has ‘disciplined’ Mike Wise, a senior writer for The Undefeated, for tweeting fake Nick Saban quotes meant to parody the coach’s comments on the solar eclipse.

Wise’s since-deleted tweets, meant as a joke, fell completely flat. In particular, a tweet about Saban’s response to “ugly race relations” sounded a bit too realistic to be read as satire, leading many people to take the made-up quote at face value.

The joke here is that Saban is focused only on football, as demonstrated by him claiming not to know when the presidential election was and saying he didn’t care about the eclipse that had all of America excited.

ESPN issued a statement Tuesday calling Wise’s tweets “inappropriate.” “The tweets were a clear violation of our journalistic standards,” the statement said. “Putting imaginary words in the name of anyone we cover is unacceptable.”

ESPN has not announced what Wise’s discipline will be.

Wise apologized for his tweets several times Monday night and said he would take a week off from Twitter. He tweeted that he had apologized to Saban through Alabama’s sports information director.

Wise made two mistakes here:

1. He expected people on Twitter to understand satire, despite a mountain of evidence that people on Twitter do not understand satire.

2. He failed to make his satire distinct enough from reality that it was easily identifiable as satire. “Haven’t been watchin’ the news. Guys get along great on our team,” sounds like something Nick Saban would actually say, which was Wise’s point but also the reason people took the quote (from a verified ESPN reporter, no less) at face value.

This seems like an innocent mistake, although you’d think someone once suspended for fabricating breaking news as part of some kind of social experiment would be a little more careful about “reporting” things that aren’t actually true.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

  • Mike in Atlanta

    At some point around age 45, sports writers become bored with sports writing. They wake up one morning and realize their lives are devoted to writing about guys in shorts and jock straps playing games with balls. So they start “branching out”, into either politics (Mike Lupica), sappy sentimentality (Mitch Albom), or worse, lame humor (Mike Wise).

    Mike, dude, you just aren’t funny. Sorry to break the news to you. Stick to writing about your little sports and games. Let the funny people make the jokes, mmmkay?

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