The NBA’s Tuesday night emoji controversy spilled into Wednesday.

The Houston Rockets, whose Twitter account posted a tweet that got everyone’s attention during Game 5 of a Western Conference first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks, fired the person who ran the account. On the day after the tweet in question — which was subsequently deleted — the Rockets dismissed their digital communications manager Chad Shanks, whose attempt at damage control was as good as one could have expected, given the situation.

Those attempts obviously weren’t good enough for the Rockets, whose decision was documented in this brief story by the Houston Chronicle.


Here’s a brief recap of the story as it unfolded on Tuesday night, when it was beginning to become apparent that the Rockets were going to win Game 5 and eliminate the Mavericks from the playoffs, four games to one:

Very simply, the Rockets’ Twitter account posted the following tweet, with a gun emoji pointed at a horse emoji:

(Yes, these are the kinds of sentences none of us expected to write in journalism school.)

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A furor ensued.

Later, this tweet appeared, a straightforward and genuine apology for an attempt at humor which didn’t hit the sweet spot:

For many, the quick apology and the deletion of the tweet represented an adequate initial response by the Rockets organization. Presumably, some basic education about the use of emojis — images are different from words, but they do represent a means of communication — would have been enough to show that the Rockets were serious about the way in which they projected their Twitter account to the world.

However, the Rockets felt that they had to fire the person responsible for the initial tweet.

This came down shortly after the news went public on Wednesday afternoon, as many of us learned the name of the person whose use of emojis stirred many emotions:

That’s another very mature and sincere statement from Chad Shanks, underscoring for many the idea that a firing wasn’t needed to convey a given message or protect the Rockets’ brand.

Just to affirm that specific notion, Shanks also said this:

Here’s another sentence none of us expected to write when we took journalism classes: This story will create a discussion around the use of emojis on Twitter. If you’re inclined to laugh off that statement, consider this story, which emerged on the NBA blogosphere and Twittersphere over the past 24 hours:

Mike Scott of the Atlanta Hawks responded to questions in an interview (at Slam Magazine) solely by using emojis.

No, really, he did:

It’s a brave new world in online communications. Emoji education is a thing, whether many fans and news consumers like it or not.

Insert the emoji of your choice here… but choose responsibly.

About Matt Zemek

| CFB writer since 2001 |