Murphy's Law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. It's not an exact science, but rather a good general rule of thumb that warns against leaving things up to chance. Anything left to chance is something left with the very significant potential to go horribly awry.
When it comes to marketing or interacting with fans on Twitter, you're leaving almost everything to chance. The only thing an organizer of, for instance, a Twitter Q&A can control is the hashtag and the questions answered. Beyond that, the rest is left to hundreds or thousands of virtually anonymous strangers with no accountability for the things they say online.
It's a recipe for disaster under the most ideal circumstances—ask people to comment on the adorableness of a basket full of puppies, and there will be at least a few jags with something terrible to say. Add a controversial topic or person into the mix, and all bets are off.
Then again, controversy isn't even required. Twitter has a magical way of becoming the proverbial troll under the world's bridge. We all know this by now, which is exactly why people should know better by now. Yet hashtag disasters remain a regular stumbling block in sports—one that reached a fever pitch in 2014.
Here are 13 relatively regrettable recent hashtag events.
Some tweets NSFW.
American Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte has a well-earned reputation for being a few fish short of a shoal. With such an obvious weakness, subjecting oneself to the meanness of strangers on social media, like Lochte has done more than once, is a risky proposition.
How do you spell the number that comes after three? #asklochte— Kristin Maverick (@kmaverick) January 11, 2013
#asklochte Who reads these Tweets to you?— Fake SportsCenter (@FakeSportsCentr) January 11, 2013
#asklochte mate why your body so shiny and your penis so visible do you think that's a way to live— Big Keven (@Churd_Champ) March 14, 2013
Everybody Loathes Phil Jones
In April, Manchester United's Phil Jones participated in a Twitter Q&A that, by that point, someone within the organization probably should've realized was a bad idea. Premier League soccer fans are a very rowdy and reliably hostile bunch best avoided on social media (and probably in life) at all costs.
#AskPhilJones When you remember that United paid more for you than they did Cristiano Ronaldo, do you cry?— Adam (@AdamKitchin) April 15, 2014
#AskPhilJones Whilst at Balshaw High School in Leyland you were crap at football . Does your time at United remind you of your childhood?— Church of MCFC (@Church_of_MCFC) April 15, 2014
Will you be watching the Champions League in a pub or in the comfort of your own home next season #AskPhilJones— Bennnnnn (@Beninhology) April 16, 2014
#AskPhilJones Why?— Annie Eaves (@AnnieEaves) April 20, 2014
Golf Channel's Dream Becomes a Nightmare
August 2013 was the 50th anniversary of assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech. A pretty big deal, huh? Some brainiac at the Golf Channel thought so as well and decided to incorporate the anniversary into its social media strategy. It did not go well.
@GolfChannel Really? Comparing civil rights to GOLF? Terrible.— Bill Hoppe (@BillHoppeNHL) August 28, 2013
Manchester United's Miss
In February, Manchester United, a team with no known enemies, hosted a Twitter Q&A with midfielder Michael Carrick. Surprising absolutely no one, the questions that came in skewed heavily toward the negative, with many menacingly mocking in nature. Lessons learned...actually, probably not.
Oh blimey. #AskCarrick must've seemed like a very good idea at the time. Yet to find a sensible question...— Jacqui Oatley (@JacquiOatley) February 3, 2014
#askcarrick have you tried wearing your kit backwards to see if it will help you pass the ball forward?— arran Lockey (@arranuk) February 3, 2014
#AskCarrick are you involved in this match fixing scandal? Or are you and Tom cleverly really that bad?— Matt Cole (@mjcoley9) February 3, 2014
In August, a Puma Twitter promotion offered fans the chance to win personalized autographs of their favorite players simply by tweeting them in their Puma gear. It didn't take long for people to get creative...ly mean.
Not Nice to Neal
In March, then-Penguins forward James Neal did a Twitter Q&A arranged and promoted by the team's terrible social media team. He was treated with all the kind of kid gloves deemed appropriate by opposing fans.
Summary of #AskNeal: 1) What is Geno like? 2) Why do you hit people in the head?— PensNation_K (@PensNation_K) March 24, 2014
Do you kick puppies on your way home from the rink? #AskNeal— Tim Bowers (@TimBowers62) March 24, 2014
Do you think before cross-checking people in the head or is it just pure instinct? #AskNeal— Meesh (@HockeyMeesh) March 24, 2014
#AskNeal How long have you been a member of Al Queda?— Flyers Jesus (@Flyerjesus) March 24, 2014
#askneal if you could go back in time and play with any player in history, which one would you knee in the face?— Kevin Hélias (@ov3rlords) March 24, 2014
In May, Washington owner Daniel Snyder's crack PR team unveiled its latest plan to win the hearts and minds of a nation, asking fans to tweet about their team pride. Naturally, Snyder launched the campaign by publicly taunting a U.S. senator. That sounds about right.
#RedskinsPride is the albert haynesworth of hashtags.— Oliver Willis (@owillis) May 30, 2014
I'm proud that this isn't even one of the worst PR disasters in Redskins history. #RedskinsPride— Dan Snyder Cares (@DanSnyderCares) May 29, 2014
No Thanks, Steven Gerrard
Former England captain Steven Gerrard has had no less than two Twitter hashtags devoted to him take ugly turns. In November 2012, it was during a Q&A, and this past July, it was a "thank you" dedication following his announcement to retire from international play. Needless to say, tweeters were merciless.
#AskStevieG & #ThankYouSteven
#AskStevieG Did you choose to wear number 4 for England because you're half the player that you are for Liverpool?— Daniel Ezekiel (@DanEzekiel) November 6, 2012
#AskStevieG Ryan Gigg's wife divorced him & took half of everything. How do you feel about her having 6 more Premier League medals than you?— Chris Beckenham (@ChrisBeckenham) November 6, 2012
#ThankYouSteven for ruining your own club's chances of winning the Premier League title. It was one of the greatest things I've ever seen.— El Tigre (@WelbecksChip) July 21, 2014
#ThankYouSteven for all the laughs over the years. I just about had a stroke from laughing at that pass against Chelsea...— Sir Alex Ferguson (@Furious_Fergie) July 21, 2014
#ThankYouSteven for being part of a generation of sweet, glorious international failure. In a bit nobhead.— Footballista (@Fo0tballista) July 21, 2014
Mark Emmert's Mistake
The NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, are two of the most villainous characters in all of sports, which made the Twitter Q&A he did on Mike & Mike in April particularly head-scratching. To say that the NCAA's stance on athletes as grateful university volunteers was not well received is an understatement.
There'd be no sweeter irony than #askemmert being an unpaid intern's idea.— A Dime Back (@ADimeBack) April 18, 2014
#askemmert Do you prefer being addressed as Beelzebub or Lucifer?— Jason Silah (@silahpalooza) April 18, 2014
#askemmert shouldn't the president of the non-profit NCAA be an unpaid volunteer position? The job is it's own reward!— Matthew Wasco (@Gleason4plus5) April 18, 2014
After the "unpleasantness" of Penn St scandal, how refreshing is it to be back fighting the real scourge, the athletes? #AskEmmert— Bald Andrew Lewnis (@briandriliunas) April 18, 2014
Queens Park Questioning
In October 2013, Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp was subjected to a nonstop barrage of verbal assaults, many related to 2012 tax evasion charges of which he was eventually cleared, as his Twitter Q&A careened full-speed into the gutter. His face while watching the questions come in really told the tale.
In a move that definitely won't end in tears, Harry Redknapp is doing a Twitter Q&A today using the hashtag #AskHarry— Telegraph Sport (@TelegraphSport) October 24, 2013
#AskHarry How hard is it to tell where your face ends and your bollocks begin?— Darren Berry AFC ❌ (@DBerry1974) October 24, 2013
#AskHarry Why have you done a Twitter Q & A if you can't read?— Ca'rlton (@_CarltonCole9) October 24, 2013
Florida State Fiasco
Good luck finding an overall fanbase more passionate and venom-spewing than that of college football. Coming off murky rape allegations, a Heisman Trophy win, a BCS National Championship and a botched burglary of crab legs, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is one of the biggest lightning rods in sports right now.
Which group protects you better, FSU offensive line, or Tallahassee PD? #AskJameis— Chase Vogel (@chase_vogel) August 10, 2014
#AskJameis Of all the coaches you have played for over the years, why did you steal those crab legs?— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) August 10, 2014
#askjameis Did you audible into the crab legs after seeing man coverage at the lobster tank?— Harvey Specter (@KyleJ_Flentje) August 11, 2014
Man City's Messianic Miss
In July, a Manchester City PR person with absolutely no foresight decided the best hashtag for a Q&A with winger Jesus Navas was #AskJesus. Ya know, because there’s no other famous Jesus in the entire history of the world. Notta one.
Man City's #AskJesus hashtag is just asking for trouble....— Jonathan Fadugba (@JFfutbol) July 28, 2014
That moment when I thought Jesus Christ was doing an #AskJesus ... Only to find out it's the football player 😂— LUKE TOWLER (@towlerluke) July 28, 2014
#AskJesus if you can convert water into wine, can you convert Soldaldo into a striker?— Tottenham Hotspur (@Spurs0fficial) July 28, 2014
#AskJesus u had two dads and u turned out fine so why are christians still agaisnt gay marriage— lauren ॐ (@laurenwestweII) July 28, 2014
Did you become a winger because of your previous experience with crosses? #AskJesus— b. (@_wangwe) July 28, 2014
The NFL is by far the most popular sports league in the U.S. By contrast, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is one of the most reviled figures in American sports. Combine the sport that everyone loves and the guy within it that everyone hates, and you've got the perfect recipe for Hatorade.
#AskCommish I accidentally used the phrase "Super Bowl" instead of "The Big Game" talking to a friend yesterday. Will I get fined?— Nate the Sports Guy (@HumbleSportsGuy) May 6, 2014
If you were stranded on a deserted island, with only one book to keep you company, wouldn't that be better for everyone? #AskCommish— Steve U (@Steve_U_DS) May 6, 2014
Are you regularly drug tested? Are team owner regularly drug tested? #AskCommish— SportsPickle (@sportspickle) May 6, 2014
The abuse was still rolling in months later.
How many pots have you smoken? #AskCommish— BraveMufasa (@teamrobhogg) August 28, 2014