Did the Washington Redskins create a fake "fan" Twitter account to drum up support for its controversial name?
On Sunday, the Twitter account @RedskinsFacts, an account purportedly for a community of fans, posted a tweet that should have run on the team's official account, @Redskins. The tweet was quickly deleted and then reposted to @Redskins. A Washington Post reporter noticed it and re-published the tweets.
Turns out @RedskinsFacts isn't actually a community of fans. It's a community run by PR reps.
Here's some background: Native Americans have been pushing for decades to get the team to change its name because they consider it offensive. Many fans have set up Twitter accounts defending the Redskins name, believing tradition trumps political correctness. @RedskinsFacts lurks among these. It's run by Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations firm, and bills itself as a community of fans and "others" who support the team's name and logo.
The Redskins said in statement the mistake was a "login error."
"Yesterday our social media team accidentally posted a Redskins-authored tweet to the third-party Redskins Facts account," said the team on Monday, adding it has never "posted content to any of the Redskins Facts" accounts.
The Redskins, its player alumni and fan groups are supportive of the Redskins Facts initiative, said Maury Lane, an executive with Burson-Marsteller, the public relations firm that manages the Redskins Facts website and social media accounts.
Slate learned last year that the account, along with an ad campaign to defend the team, was the work of Burson, a PR firm that has a history of working on controversial issues.
"This isn't the first time a company has had an 'oops' like this," said Debra Aho Williamson, an eMarketer analyst.
Other examples include Vodaphone in 2010, when an employee posted an obscene tweet to its thousands of Twitter followers. In 2011, an American Red Cross employee who had been drinking accidentally posted a "rogue" tweet about #gettngslizzerd. The brewery mentioned in the tweet later took to Twitter asking its followers to donate to the Red Cross.
Maybe now the Redskins will be careful not to fumble like this again.