The internet has roundly and deservedly mocked Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban for his e-mails to Turner president David Levy and NBA commissioner Adam Silver complaining about a Bleacher Report tweet, but Cuban’s still digging himself deeper. He spoke to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News to clarify why Bleacher Report’s video of a Dirk Nowitzki airball captioned “Dirk Forever” set him off, but didn’t manage to clear much up, and only further suggested Cuban’s trying once again to use his power to bully the media:
“I (couldn’t) care less about the video,” Cuban said. “It was the caption that made it disrespectful. When it was up, there wasn’t a single reply saying it was funny. Just the opposite. Aren’t blooper reels supposed to be funny?”So Cuban took action and eventually got the website to take down the tweet after a series of emails to Bleacher Report parent company Turner Broadcasting and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
But the issue remains something that Cuban believes needs to be taken seriously.
“Sometimes humor attempts go wrong,” he said. “This was an example of an attempt gone wrong. Like I said in the email , there were captions that could have been fun. There is no one that enjoys making fun of himself more than Dirk. They made the mistake of picking a caption (that) was disrespectful rather than funny. If you are disrespectful to a legend, I’m standing up for him.”
Really, “Dirk Forever” is disrespectful and not funny? Is there a central list of Mark Cuban-approved captions that are funny? Does all sports humor need to be judged by if it makes Cuban laugh? And do companies that have a writer comment on a Mavericks’ player need to run their Twitter captions by Cuban to avoid angry e-mails to the company president and the NBA commissioner? Cuban is further buttressing his reputation as a hothead with no sense of humor with these comments, and he’s making himself into a media censor as well. This isn’t his first fight with the media on something he has no business commenting on. Remember back in November when he briefly banned ESPN from covering Mavericks’ games in a protest against the AP’s automation practices, which had nothing to do with ESPN or NBA games whatsoever?
No one is saying that Cuban has to like or agree with that Bleacher Report caption. He’s welcome to express his dissent, and he has a huge Twitter platform to do so. If he’s able to mock them in a funny way, he’d gain plenty of traction and make himself look better in the process. (Remember when Ted Cruz clowned Deadspin?) But no, instead of expressing his disagreement with the media on the giant platforms he has, Cuban has to go to the head of the company and ask him to take down the tweet and fire the writer. There’s nothing factually wrong or legally actionable about Bleacher Report’s tweet; the only complaint here is that Cuban didn’t like it.
Cuban is an arrogant franchise owner with an incredibly outsized idea of the importance of both himself and his team, and this is further confirmation that he doesn’t know much of anything about sports media. It’s also further confirmation that he’s willing to escalate fights over tiny issues (automation of minor league baseball and small college stories from the AP, and now individual tweets from Bleacher Report) to insanely high corporate levels. The Morning News‘ Tim Cowlishaw had an excellent take on Cuban’s bullying and why journalists shouldn’t tolerate it:
Billionaire owner, his fame enhanced by a network reality show, comes across something he doesn’t like and takes to Twitter. Proceeds to issue threats, bully those he doesn’t like, perhaps even strip media credentials because, having surrounded himself with “yes” men, no one dares tell him that he’s out of line or that his money can’t buy him whatever he pleases.
Oh, wait, does this apply to someone besides Cuban? I’m confused, I thought that guy was Cuban’s nemesis.
It’s a shame that, at a time the Mavericks are becoming both younger and more interesting, the team’s owner feels compelled to call attention to himself with an angry expletive-laced attack on the president of Turner Sports because — get this — someone had the audacity on Twitter to make fun of a Dirk Nowitzki air ball.
The sad thing is that companies keep at least somewhat caving to Cuban’s bizarre demands when they don’t really need to. Bleacher Report eventually pulled down this tweet and tweeted a “Earlier today we deleted a tweet about Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk is an NBA legend in our eyes and will be forever” apology. Yes, there’s an argument that one tweet isn’t worth continuing a war with Cuban, and maybe Bleacher Report execs would have decided that tweet wasn’t great on its own, but doing so after his pushback smacks of appeasement. And back in November, ESPN ended their fight with Cuban by agreeing to link to Mavs.com stories in their game recaps, something it’s highly unlikely they would have done on their own.
This kind of appeasement may be over small things, but it only further enables Cuban’s bullying behavior. If media companies keep giving into his demands, he’ll keep making them. Yes, neither of these particular issues are real threats to journalism in their own right, but what if Cuban pulls this about a serious story? We’ll see if anyone stands up to him then. They certainly haven’t really so far.