The Miami Marlins have one of the most creative, engaging social media teams in all of baseball. Over the weekend they got into a Twitter sparring match with the Tampa Bay Rays, who swept the Marlins in two games. And the Marlins may have gone just a tad too far with a joke about Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin.
It started with the Marlins posting a highlight from their Saturday night loss to the Rays, and the Rays responding.
show the final out— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 4, 2019
can't hear u. must be the maple leafs crunching— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) August 4, 2019
The Marlins jabbing the Rays for their bonkers Montreal timeshare plan seemed to be the end of it ... until the Rays won on Sunday. Then they renewed the feud.
here's the broom we just used on you, so you can clean them up.— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 4, 2019
That led the Marlins to tweet this, which some found distasteful and disrespectful.
yOU'RE LITERALLY THE ANIMAL THAT KILLED STEVE IRWIN LOG OFF— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) August 4, 2019
The tweet, in isolation, is actually funny. It wasn’t making fun of Steve Irwin in any way, or even making light of his death. Irwin died in 2006 after being stabbed by a stingray while snorkeling, so the reference in the tweet is factual. The mascot of the Tampa Bay Rays is the same animal that killed the Crocodile Hunter.
But it seems like some people took the tweet very seriously. Seriously enough that the Marlins noticed, and issued an apology.
JUST IN: Marlins statement.— Andy Slater (@AndySlater) August 5, 2019
“This was a regrettable exchange by our otherwise creative social media team. Unfortunately, in this medium, sometimes we swing and miss, and this was definitely a miss.”
Spokesman says “the matter has been addressed internally.” pic.twitter.com/W5mKgyUonI
This can happen in the era of pervasive social media. Brands and sports teams want engagement, which means their social media interacts with other accounts like it’s a human. But that can also lead to, well, human mistakes. The Marlins account itself also apologized.
Hi, guys. Like everyone who grew up watching him, we miss Steve. We’re so sorry to have made light of his passing.— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) August 5, 2019
But plenty of people responded to that tweet saying that no apology was necessary.
That tweet was an absolute W do not apologize— Rachel (@rachillax_13) August 5, 2019
A marlin never killed Steve Irwin— Phinattic (@Phinattic) August 5, 2019
I thought it was a smooth burn— Bravo Golf Lima (@Benjamin_G_Lund) August 5, 2019
Steve Irwin probably would have laughed at it
That tweet didn't make light of Steve's passing, but further iconized him as an all time great.— John (@Jgio954) August 5, 2019
Apologize for nothing.— Joe B (@the_green_veggi) August 5, 2019
As of now, The original Steve Irwin tweet is still up. It hasn’t been deleted, and that’s a good thing. It can live on as a tweet that many people found funny, but maybe also as a cautionary tale for social media managers everywhere: be careful when you joke about beloved dead people on Twitter.
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