The Montreal Canadiens: a PR nightmare story

Credit: Montreal Gazette - Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk (27) skates up the ice in a Feb. 9 game vs. Tampa Bay. Montreal won 4-2.

By: Noah Thomas

Every professional American sports league has its few teams that are held in high regard. In Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox are among the most celebrated. The NBA has the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, and in football the Dallas Cowboys are known as America’s team, the title of which has been challenged in recent years by the New England Patriots.

In the National Hockey League, few teams are more widely celebrated than the Montreal Canadiens.

Tuesday night, after reaching one million followers on Twitter, the Canadiens organization chose to celebrate their fans and the support given throughout the years by sending out several automated tweets to their followers. The tweets in question featured photos of Canadiens jerseys with fans’ usernames plastered on the back.

After several of the automated tweets were sent out, it became clear that Montreal did not think this thing through. One particular tweet made it onto their timeline—a tweet featuring the Twitter handle of an account that contained a highly offensive racial slur. Bruce Arthur, a journalist in Toronto, Ontario, took a screenshot of the tweet. It can be found here (WARNING: CONTAINS OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE).

In a world in which social media is the law of the land when it comes to public relations, mishaps happen. Unfortunately, the very mistake the Canadiens PR department made is extremely similar to one the Patriots made not even a few years ago. After realizing what the tweet contained, the Canadiens removed it and quickly apologized, promising that nothing of the sort would occur in the future.

This is just another wrench in the machine of a Canadiens organization that has had very few things go its way this season. The Habs are barely above .500 at this juncture (29-27-5) and are sitting in the sixth position in the Eastern Conference with only a meager chance of making any noise in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

One of the most recent public relations nightmare in professional sports takes the pitfalls of social media, combining them with what was supposed to be a joyous occasion, and sprinkling in one of the most hot-button issues in today’s society. This is a bad look for Montreal, but not one that will cause too much of a stink in the long run.

Social media is both a great tool for communicating with others and a small-scale, personal weapon of mass destruction. With great power comes great responsibility, so all social media accounts linked to professional sports franchises will need to exercise extreme caution in the future.

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