Nate Silver has been a strong addition to ESPN, and his website 538 is a go-to site for statistical analysis about everything from the presidential election to a ranking system of the major clubs in world soccer and everything in between. What Silver and 538 aren’t known for are making social media memes. Silver tried it on Tuesday, and it turned into an immediate controversy.
Silver tried to make a joke about the latest allegations of a Boston pro sports team bending and breaking the rules. A report from the New York Times says the Red Sox used Apple Watches to steal signs at Fenway Park from the New York Yankees. Silver then used a picture of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at Fenway Park to relate it to the Patriots’ SpyGate and DeflateGate investigations.
Silver was attempting to capitalize on the whole “distracted boyfriend” meme craze because beside Brady and Belichick, he labeled a young man looking on as “childlike integrity” standing by watching the first pitch.
However, what Silver perhaps didn’t realize was that this was in incredibly poor taste because the young man was Henry Richard, the brother of Martin Richard, who was killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. Richard handed the ball for the first pitch to Brady before the 2015 season opener at Fenway, which is where Silver got the picture from.
Eventually Silver would delete the tweet, but here’s what he sent out to his 2.5 million followers.
Right away, Silver’s followers and others on Twitter recognized Richard and asked Silver to take the tweet down.
Please delete. The child on the right is a victim of Boston Marathon bombing. His Brother was murdered.
— kdmiller (@kdmiller) September 5, 2017
Anybody who knows @NateSilver538 might want to tell him a dopey meme with somebody from the Richard family is in extremely poor taste.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) September 6, 2017
Please take this down. You may not have known, but the young man on the right lost his brother in the marathon bombing.
— Trenni Kusnierek (@trenni) September 5, 2017
Obviously unintentional but please, please spare this kid more unwanted press associated with the loss of his brother and take it down.
— Nick Pavlidis (@NickPavlidis) September 5, 2017
It took a few hours, but Silver eventually did delete the tweet and apologized for including a picture of Richard. He also said that he would make a donation to the Martin Richard Foundation.
My sincere apologies to the Richard family—I didn't know the story of the fan in the Boston jersey & I've donated to https://t.co/FKawYG1vpD
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) September 6, 2017
This was a mistake on Silver’s part, but likely one where he didn’t realize the full story behind the picture and the identity of the young man. He made the right decision in the end to delete the tweet, publicly apologize, and make a donation to the Richard Foundation.
Of course, it all could have been avoided if Silver wouldn’t have tried his hand at creating the meme in the first place. Let this be the latest reminder to everyone out there that if you’re planning on making what you think is a clever joke on social media, you better be 100000% sure that it’s not going to blow up and go viral for the wrong reason.