The Los Angeles Lakers tweeted a picture of Kobe Bryant on Wednesday to honor the victims and survivors of 9/11.
The tweet included a picture of Bryant during the 2001-02 season with an American flag and a red-white-and-blue ribbon over the breast of his Lakers jersey and the caption #NEVERFORGET:
But the Lakers swiftly deleted the tweet and apologized for it in a statement to USA TODAY Sports after receiving plenty of criticism.
Fans criticized the Lakers because they interpreted the tweet as a joke about Bryant’s afro rather than a sincere 9/11 commemoration.
But there was nothing offensive, wrong or inappropriate about the Lakers tweet on Wednesday. The Lakers simply memorialized the day with an image that captured how they experienced the events back in 2001.
“We used a photo of how we commemorated 9/11 on the 2001-02 season, shortly after the tragedy occurred, because we wanted to show our support of what we felt at that time and continue to feel now,” said John Black, official spokesman for the Lakers, in his statement to USA TODAY Sports. “Out of respect for the intensely personal nature of how people remember this day, and that we recognize that not everyone understood the intent of our message, we pulled down our tweet and photo.”
Note the phrase “personal nature.” What critics misunderstand about the Lakers tweet is that “personal nature” can also apply to a shared experience.
Members on Twitter tweeted all kinds of personal pics to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11. The #neverforget discussion on Twitter shows photos of people gazing at the smoking Twin Towers as they sail on boats along the East River, of the 9/11 memorial at ground zero and of American flags, but also of bizarre images sent out as personal references and reminders from other people on Twitter.
These pictures are personal pictures, not all of which “the other” or outsider can understand, but that nonetheless capture the thoughts, emotions and impressions of the tweeter.
The Lakers tweet is no different.
For the Lakers organization, that 2001 image of Bryant wearing his ribbon and American flag expressed a shared experience of 9/11 through the “personal nature” of the image itself. Bryant is the face of the Lakers franchise. Picturing him serves at once as a personal experience as well as the Lakers shared experience — and not just for members of the Lakers organization but for fans too.
And besides, what’s so funny about an afro?