Would you fire someone based on that tweet? Is it so horrible to you, so seering to your senses, that it warrants harming a human being’s career and welfare? Can you even detect what it was that got its author fired? Could the person doing the firing believe that he or she would deserve firing for such a tweet, as in, say, The Golden Rule?
Has the world gone mad?
First the basics: What the hell is an emoji? From Wikipedia:
“Emoji (絵文字（えもじ）are the ideograms or smileys used in Japanese electronic messages and Web pages, the use of which is spreading outside Japan. Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji literally means “picture” (e) + “character” (moji). The characters are used much like ASCII emoticons or kaomoji, but a wider range is provided, and the icons are standardized and built into the handsets. Some emoji are very specific to Japanese culture, such as a bowing businessman, a face wearing a face mask, a white flower used to denote “brilliant homework,” or a group of emoji representing popular foods: ramen noodles, dango, onigiri, Japanese curry, and sushi. The three main Japanese mobile operators, NTT DoCoMo, au, and SoftBank Mobile (formerly Vodafone), have each defined their own variants of emoji. Although originally only available in Japan, some emoji character sets have been incorporated into Unicode, allowing them to be used elsewhere as well. As a result, emoji have become increasingly popular after their international inclusion in Apple’s iOS in 2011 as the Apple Color Emoji typeface,which was followed by similar adoption by Android and other mobile operating systems. Apple’s OS X operating system supports emoji as of version 10.7 (Lion).Microsoft added monochrome Unicode emoji coverage to the Segoe UI Symbol system font in Windows 8 and added color emoji in Windows 8.1 via the Segoe UI Emoji font.”
In short, they are tiny pictures increasingly used by Twitter freaks to jazz up their tweets. If you don’t look for them, you may miss them. They are, essentially, cartoons.
Chad Shanks, who ran the NBA Houston Rockets’ Twitter account as the team’s digital communications manager, posted the above tweet to celebrate the impending end of the first-round NBA play-off series with the Dallas Mavericks. The emoji of a pistol pointed at a an emoji of a horse’s head—the Mavericks’ mascot is some kind of a horse-human hybrid monster—in the upper left-hand corner was deemed by management so vile that Shanks’ head had to metaphorically roll. The shocking, PTSD triggering tweet with its reference to cartoon violence was deleted and sent to cyber Hell, and Shanks grovelled an apology, writing, via Twitter, of course, that he was no longer with the organization:
“I did my best to make the account the best in the NBA by pushing the envelope, but pushed too far for some and for that I apologize….Sometimes you can go too far. I will no longer run @HoustonRockets but am grateful to the organization that let me develop an online voice.”
After all, he has to eat. Smart, Chad. Smart, but allow me to point out what I’m sure you would have if you didn’t need to stay in your field.
There was absolutely nothing wrong, inappropriate or in bad taste about Chad’s tweet. I don’t know if a season ticket holder was offended, a horse-lover, PETA or the Japanese Embassy, but the Rockets should have had the loyalty to the team’s staff and the common sense to say, “OK, we’ll apologize and be more sensitive next time. Frankly, we see nothing the matter with what Chad did, but we appreciate the feedback.”
Instead, they were abject cowards, and scapegoated a fungible employee. The employees who send out those organizational tweets are supposed to be witty, amusing and provocative several times a day with no supervision. Like radio shock jocks, improvisational comedians and talk show hosts, they need to operate within the understanding that they might cross a line now and then, and unless they burn the line to the ground, the organization will support them. Applying strich liability, as in “One goof, one complaint, and you’re out on the street!” is unfair, cruel, and stupid
Where is this emoji line? A few decades ago, every major newspaper had a sports cartoonist, and as a team prepared to eliminate—ooh! That’s a scary word!—a rival, printing the cartoon image of the prevailing team’s mascot abusing, stomping, threatening or otherwise doing violence to the other mascot was standard fare. It was a joke, see. Nobody was really threatening a cub, a cardinal, a tiger, a pirate or an Indian. People had brains back then, and a sense of proportion, and they realized that the image was no more objectionable than the Roadrunner or the Three Stooges.
Chad Shanks made a teenie, weenie joke that gently mocked a rival team (if it was the Mavericks that got him fired, I am going to go out and shoot a cartoon horse as soon as I can find one), and because there is a virulent strain of political correctness bullying in our culture which when combined with corporate weenie-ism makes potential victims of us all, he no longer has a paycheck.
The Rockets owe him the apology.
I know what team I’ll be rooting against in the NBA play-offs.
P.S. The website “Awful Announcing” actually sided with the Rockets in this controversy. That’s called “awful ethics.”