Looks like Kevin Love’s left shoulder isn’t the Cavaliers’ biggest problem anymore: During Game 2 of the NBA playoffs between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls on May 7, a Cavaliers-created video aired on the jumbotron of Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH. The video showed a Cavaliers fan throwing his girlfriend across the room after learning that she is a Chicago Bulls fan, underscoring the rivalry between the two teams. “Don’t make the same mistake she did,” the male voiceover warns.
It’s an amateurish video with wooden acting and low production value, and was supposedly meant to be a spoof of Leo Burnett Chicago’s UnitedHealthcare commercial which went viral back in March. But many instead saw it as a tone-deaf moment that represents a setback in American sports’ attempt to have a real conversation about domestic violence.
Obviously, the NBA rejects the video entirely. An NBA spokesperson told Digiday, “We agree with the Cavaliers that the video shown last night was inappropriate and offensive. We spoke to the team earlier today to convey our disappointment. Anything that makes light of violence of any sort has no place in our league or society.”
Indeed, the timing of the video could not be worse: On March 5, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg announced a partnership with the NBA and the WNBA called #LeanInTogether, a new phase of the Lean In project to get men to support women professionally by encouraging basketball fans to support gender equality. The partnership rides on the NBA’s sheer popularity on Facebook: 27.4 million fans, in comparison to the NFL’s 12.6 million and the MLB’s paltry 6.3 million. LeBron James, small forward for the Cavaliers, even appears in one of the NBA-produced public service announcements.
The negative reactions have been increasing online, with 3,300 tweets being posted in the last 18 hours, mostly negative, according to Topsy. These reactions run the gamut of bewilderment and anger:
Every time I see that Cavs promo video I add another number to the amount of people I think got fired. That was awful
— Gabriel Austin (@TvGabe) May 8, 2015
— Katie (@KatieKennaWins) May 8, 2015
Bleacher Report senior NBA writer Ethan Skolnick provided some context for the video:
While understanding now it was parody, & while Cavs in-house does much creative/funny stuff, don’t think it was great judgment in climate. — Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 7, 2015
All the same, the tone was perceived as more than a little off base:
DISAPPOINTING….CAVS SHOW VIDEO WITH DOMESTIC VIOLENCE…WHO IS IN CHARGE…THROW SOMEBODY OUT!
— kellyl8n (@kellyl8n) May 8, 2015
Some folks that thought everyone should just lighten up:
— TotalPeckerheadMove™ (@TotalPHMove) May 8, 2015
But will the video cause fans to rethink their allegiance? For non-Cavs fans, it’s more of the same: “I hate LeBron” is a common refrain in NBA basketball. (There’s even a website called IHateLeBronJames.com). For Cavs fans, probably not. As long as no players are accused of actual acts of domestic violence and the team continues to do well as they advance into the playoffs (they trounced the Bulls and Game 3 is tonight), Cavaliers fans might rally around the players and consider the skit a separate, if tasteless, incident.
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