NBA memo: Rules prohibit mocking of opponents on social media

ByTim MacMahon ESPN logo
Friday, February 10, 2017

The NBA, citing concerns about provoking exchanges between players that could damage the league's reputation, issued a memo to all 30 franchises this week emphasizing rules prohibiting "mocking and/or ridiculing" opponents or officials by official team social media accounts.

"While we understand that the use of social media by teams, including during games, is an important part of our business, the inappropriate use of social media can damage the reputation of the NBA, its teams and its players," NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum wrote in the memo obtained by ESPN. "Recently, social media postings (e.g., on Twitter) by some teams have crossed the line between appropriate and inappropriate. In addition to other concerns, such conduct by teams can result in 'Twitter wars' between players that can cause further reputational damage and subject players to discipline by the League.

"As a result, we want teams to be aware of the NBA's rules with respect to the use of social media by teams. As with in-game entertainment, teams are prohibited from mocking and/or ridiculing opponents (including teams, players, team personnel (including owners) and opponents' home cities) and game officials on social media in any form, including through statements, pictures or videos."

The memo was issued in the wake of an exchange between Memphis Grizzlies small forward Chandler Parsons and Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum that started with the official Trail Blazers Twitter account posting a GIF of Parsons air-balling a 3-pointer during the Jan. 27 game between the teams.

Parsons, who received maximum-contract offers from Portland and Memphis before choosing to go to the Grizzlies in free agency last summer, replied after the game: "Good luck in the lottery show this year."

McCollum quoted that tweet and added a snarky one-liner directed to Parsons, who has struggled while coming back from knee surgery this season: "We hit the lottery by not signing you."

Parsons later laughed about the exchange and said an apology the next day from Blazers CEO and president Chris McGowan was not necessary, but the league office was clearly not amused.

Tatum's memo included three bullet points specifying what would be considered inappropriate material for team social media accounts:

  • Disparage, belittle or embarrass an individual opponent or game official
  • Mimic or impersonate an opponent or game official in a negative manner
  • Criticize officiating or the NBA officiating program

"In addition, teams should never disparagingly or negatively refer to an opponent's or game official's personal life, family, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or any other status or characteristic protected by law," the memo continued. "Teams are also prohibited from using social media to highlight or encourage player altercations, flagrant fouls or hard physical contact between players, or to condone or make light of violence in any way or form.

"Teams may use social media for fun and lighthearted banter that does not reflect poorly on any team, player, other team or League personnel, or the League as a whole. However, such activity cannot become inappropriate or offensive. As such, we encourage teams to properly and extensively train their social media staff members to ensure that they know what kind of postings are appropriate and what kind are not."