Tampa Bay Rays Officially Apologize for Fan-Made Steve Irwin Joke Sign

Gabe Zaldivar@gabezalPop Culture Lead WriterApril 4, 2013

Photo Credit: Deadspin
Photo Credit: Deadspin

Steve Irwin jokes will still get you in trouble. 

Rick Mayer of The Tampa Tribune reports the Tampa Bay Rays have made an official statement in regard to the polarizing picture of Raymond holding up a sign referencing a "Rays To Do List."

Under the header, Irwin—a popular wildlife expert who was killed by a stingray in 2006—has his name crossed out with "World Series" next on the to-do list agenda. 

Yes, judging by the outcry, many of you feel the same as most fans out there. Too soon

Here is the official statement, via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:

Last night Rays mascot Raymond was handed an inappropriate sign brought to the game by a fan. Fans are welcome to bring signs into Tropicana Field provided they are not offensive. The Tampa Bay Rays regret that this particular sign was displayed in the ballpark, and we apologize for the lapse in judgment.

Deadspin was one of the first sites to catch the astonishing image and received more pictures of Raymond posing with the sign from the man who made it. 

If you are wondering how one simple sign could blow up to such great ends, consider that is all part of the design. 

The Tampa Tribune has more information on 29-year-old Lloyd Johnson, a military veteran who thought up the sign that would later mandate a franchise apology to the world. 

The St. Petersburg College sports marketing major is highly interested in what sells and would love nothing more than to one day work for the Rays. Somehow, I think that prospect may be in some jeopardy at the moment. 

In the seventh inning, he spotted Raymond, handed him the sign, stood back and took it all in with photographs, via Deadspin:

There were a couple empty seats in front of me so Raymond sat down. I handed him the sign and he read it, obviously thought it was funny because he stood up on the chairs and held it up for literally 3 seconds, obviously realizing what he was doing or when he saw the reaction from some of the fans, and got down and tried to hand it back. That's when I started snappin off photos.

Apparently, Raymond had a moment of clarity when some fans showed some obvious disapproval. 

Via The Tampa Tribune, we have to say Johnson was successful, at least when you consider what he intended to do:

He said he came up with the idea for the sign last week, channeling his marketing mindset developed when he worked for a T-shirt kiosk at Tyrone Square Mall. He found, through trial and error, 'that the more cutting edge/offensive the shirt, the more it would sell.'

'I had to explain the sign to some people I encountered, but most of the reaction…at the game was positive and funny,' he said.

First off, if you have to explain your joke to most people, the joke is a failure. Second, going the offensive route does have one downside: People cringe rather than laugh, which is kind of detrimental to the comedic value.  

So, the moral of the story is err on the side of cutting edge and ditch the entirety of "offensive." One rule of thumb might be to ask yourself whether the joke would lead to the public shaming of an entire franchise. 

If the answer is yes, just make something out of the ESPN acronym like the rest of your fellow fans. 

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