PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Suspension of Clippers Broadcasting Team Garners More Publicity than the Cause

with one comment

Clippers Broadcasters Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith

I know what you’re thinking, if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it actually make a sound? Well, apparently there is someone out there that actually watches the Los Angeles Clippers play basketball, and he’s not happy with the Clippers broadcasting duo of Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith.

Arya Towfighi, a Clippers season-ticket holder of Iranian decent, was offended over an exchange the duo had when the Clippers visited the Memphis Grizzlies last Wednesday. The exchange came towards the end of the game when Hamed Haddadi, the first Iranian-born player in the NBA, entered the game. According to the L.A. Times, Lawler and Smith had the following exchange.

Smith: Look who’s in

Lawler: Hamed Haddadi. Where’s he from?

Smith: He’s the first Iranian to play in the NBA. (Smith pronounced Iranian as “Eye-ranian,” a pronunciation that offended the viewer who complained.)

Lawler: There aren’t any Iranian players in the NBA. (repeating Smith’s mispronunciation.)

Smith: He’s the only one.

Lawler: He’s from Iran?

Smith: I guess so.”

Lawler: That Iran?

Smith: Yes.

Lawler: The real Iran?

Smith: Yes.

Lawler: Wow. Haddadi that’s H-A-D-D-A-D-I.

Smith: You’re sure it’s not Borat’s older brother?

Smith: If they ever make a movie about Haddadi, I’m going to get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part.

Lawler: Here’s Haddadi. Nice little back-door pass. I guess those Iranians can pass the ball.

Smith: Especially the post players.

Lawler: I don’t know about their guards.

Not a shining moment from Lawler and Smith, no question about that. But according to the L.A. Times article, Towfighi’s e-mail was the only complaint received by Fox Sports Prime Ticket. I know, I know, there’s a chance that was 100% of the viewing audience. As a result, the station suspended Lawler and Smith from calling the Clippers next game last Friday against the Denver Nuggets.

The suspension resulted in multiple stories from the L.A. Times, a headline on espn.com and articles from virtually every other major sports outlet. It appears Fox Sports Prime Ticket drew far greater attention for the suspension than the actual comments made by Lawler and Smith.

Lawler is one of the most respected play-by-play men in the NBA and hasn’t missed a broadcast in 25 years. That doesn’t excuse the comments, but let’s also keep in mind that there was only that one complaint logged. Maybe an in-person apology to Towfighi and an on-air mention might have served the purpose without drawing the extra negative attention.

Keeping in mind that harsh punishments are often expected from offensive comments, my question to PR people and sports fans is. Should organizations be looking to minimize greater negative publicity from the punishment when disciplining broadcasters or company spokespeople for offensive public comments?

Update: Brian Cuban, brother of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, has a slightly different take on this issue on his blog The Cuban Revolution.

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Written by Brian Gleason

November 23, 2009 at 12:17 am

One Response

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  1. This douchebag Towfighi should be prevented from seeing any more Clippers, Lakers, Dodgers, Angels, etc., games except via satellite from Tehran.

    Joe Mama

    December 1, 2009 at 7:36 pm


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