Update: Reali tweeted us with an explanation.
We had the podcast quotes all sourced in our show google doc, then I went to Twitter, searched Lebron LA & that's where the fweet came up.
— Tony Reali (@TonyReali) June 16, 2017
Media outlets occasionally get fooled by fake Twitter accounts, especially in the offseason of trade, free agency and draft rumors, but ESPN’s Around The Horn did so in a particularly hilarious way Thursday. Moderator Tony Reali started the episode’s discussion by reading a tweet from a fake Adrian Wojnarowski account, and prefacing it with “This is from Wojnarowski, so of course it’s legitimate”.
Anthony Chiang of The Palm Beach Post first called attention to the mistake. You can see the tweet they displayed above. Yep, that’s “WojVertioalNBA,” not “WojVerticalNBA.” Note the lack of blue verified checkmark, too. Here’s the full clip:
“Let’s talk this headline I read,” Reali says. “This is from Wojnarowski, so of course it’s legitimate, but is it legitimately seismic, or just NBA in summer? Roll it. “LeBron will opt out of contract in 2018 to form a super team and “defend himself” in LA, league sources tell The Vertical. Tim, reading that, do you think it’s a possibility, do you think it’s reality, or do you think it’s a fallacy?”
Update: It should be noted that while the specific tweet in here was definitely fake, and while it went to a level of certainty that Wojnarowski and other reporters haven’t yet publicly expressed, the base sentiment (a strong possibility that LeBron goes to L.A. in 2018) has been suggested by Wojnarowski and other NBA reporters. Here’s what the real Woj said on his podcast, as transcribed by Newsday‘s Teddy Cutler:
“Not only is there no guarantee he’s coming back, I’m not sure there’s an expectation he’s re-signing there [with the Cavaliers],” Wojnarowski said. “I think they feel, I think within Cleveland and around the league, they feel that he’s very much in play to leave again and likely head out West to one of the two L.A. teams. The Lakers could very well be a target.”
Wojnarowski added that the Miami Heat, with whom James won his first two NBA Championships, could also be a possibility.
So, the panelists’ reactions here are about what the real Woj said, not just what the fake one said. Here are a couple of them, from Tim Cowlishaw:
And Kevin Blackistone:
This continued for a few more minutes, with Frank Isola and Ramona Shelburne also discussing it. Isola said it was about 50/50, an opinion he expressed on his Sirius show earlier in the day. Shelburne also thought there was a pretty good chance of LeBron going to LA. None of those statements are invalid, and they seem in line with the real Woj’s comments, albeit not the fake Woj’s tweet that this is already decided.
Still, leading into the panelists’ comments with the fake tweet didn’t make them look good. This reminds us of the time Pardon The Interruption promoted a ChatSports report that didn’t seem to have much truth to it. However, at least that was on a website, not just from a Twitter account whose entire purpose is to fool people.
Of course, this account did a nice job of fooling people. It came up with something that seemed somewhat plausible, finding a screenname that looks like Woj’s actual one thanks to Twitter’s font choices, and clearly deceiving some journalists. (It’s unlikely Reali follows the fake account in question, and more likely someone retweeted this into his timeline and he didn’t check it thoroughly.)
For what it’s worth, Reali later apologized on Twitter:
I got us @AroundtheHorn burned bad today by a fake tweet (fweet). Uggg this feels the worst.
— Tony Reali (@TonyReali) June 15, 2017
And linked Wojnarowski’s actual discussion of LeBron to LA:
Here's the full @WojVerticalNBA pod for the LeBron story about LA and options in 2018 https://t.co/jTMELHW4eN
— Tony Reali (@TonyReali) June 15, 2017
This is made even more awkward by the widely-reported news that Wojnarowski is set to join ESPN after the NBA draft later this month. Maybe once he gets there, they won’t be fooled by fake Woj accounts?
[Anthony Chiang on Twitter]