There were some highly unusual developments in part of the sports media Twitter scene this past weekend, with a SB Nation writer’s ex-girlfriend accusing him of lying, stealing and domestic violence around a May 2016 arrest, and he accusing her of lies and robbery in return. The writer in question is part-time social media editor and blogger Jacob Price, who went by @ohholybutt on Twitter, and as Lindsey Adler wrote at Deadspin Wednesday, he’s now been fired:
SB Nation fired part-time social media editor and blogger Jacob Price Wednesday after he went on a tweetstorm over the weekend about a May 2016 arrest for allegedly choking his then-girlfriend. The charges against Price have since been dropped.
Price, who goes by @ohholybutt on Twitter, spent the better part of last Saturday tweeting his version of events, in response to his ex-girlfriend’s tweets about the incident. They’ve both deactivated their Twitter accounts, with Price bringing his down today. We’re told Price’s tweets were the first time SB Nation learned about the arrest.
In one tweet, Price’s ex-girlfriend claimed he “pinned me down with my own arm against my throat.” Price was arrested May 21 in Indianapolis and held on a number of counts, including battery, strangulation, resisting arrest, interfering with reporting of a crime, and cruelty to an animal.
The charges were later dropped, and Price claimed in his since-deleted series of tweets from Saturday (Adler has screengrabs in her piece) that was because his then-girlfriend lied, admitted she lied, and was even willing to admit to falsifying a police report, but he talked her out of it. In her tweets (also since deleted), she said the charges were dropped because she wanted to save their relationship. Both also accused each other of stealing their money.
Those are very serious accusations, and SB Nation parted ways with Price after this, but their rationale is interesting. In a statement Adler relays from SB Nation parent company Vox Media, they attribute Price’s dismissal to his social media behavior:
Jacob Price was a part-time employee at SB Nation for the past year and a half, as a social media desk writer. His social media behavior was not aligned with the standards we expect from employees working in a public-facing social media role, and his employment with SB Nation and Vox Media was terminated. We can not comment further on employee matters.
That’s somewhat understandable, and there may be legal and financial reasons to make a statement like that rather than attributing this to the serious accusations and charges that were laid against Price. However, it’s notable that this apparently isn’t about Price’s work, and it would be very interesting to learn what exactly the social media standards expected of Vox employees (“in a public-facing social media role”) are.
Are Vox employees always expected to be on the clock in terms of what goes out on their Twitter accounts? Do they have their own internal version of ESPN’s (infamous and not usually followed) social media rules? Or was this just determined to be someone being harmful to the brand, and thus becoming a liability? Or was this really about the charges laid against Price?
People have been fired for social media behavior before, of course, with Curt Schilling being perhaps the biggest case in point. There have been other cases, too, especially ones around problematic direct message behavior. Vox isn’t necessarily wrong to make this move, either. It’s certainly not clear who’s right and who’s wrong in the Price accusations and counter-accusations, but having those play out publicly is not a situation that would reflect well on anyone’s brand, and parting ways with him after that is understandable. However, the vague “his social media behavior was not aligned with the standards we expect” statement from Vox leaves some questions about what those standards are.
Having standards isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it can help avert some brand disasters. Making them too rigid can carry its own perils, though, especially for a media organization that employs lots of writers known for their opinions and personalities. It will be worth keeping an eye out to see if there are any further developments with Vox and their social media policies.