Jim Harbaugh is not the only sports figure skilled in the art of subtweeting. In fact, this practice of tweeting at someone without actually tweeting at someone is rampant in the sports world—so rampant that the NCAA just made it illegal for coaches to use such coded messaging tactics in relation to unsigned recruits.
Subtweeting is so common in general that Twitter filed to trademark the term in December. Probably a good call.
The following are 10 recent examples of sports subtweeting savvy. Most appear passive-aggressive, some are more lighthearted, and others are just plain mysterious. The best of these, however, achieve that type of clever burn that is always entertaining.
The great thing about subtweets is you're never really sure if it's a subtweet. Keep that in mind with these gems. They look like subtweets, even walk and talk like subtweets, but short of asking these sports figures directly (some have tried), it's impossible to fully confirm their true meaning.
The SEC's attempt to stop Michigan football from holding practices in Florida led to a dishonorable mention from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh:
It's dishonorable because, well, Harbaugh is possibly the biggest whiner in the history of sports whiners.
Yet the quarrel led to another Harbaugh subtweet, this one a bit more direct. The coach included a link to a related story by Anthony Broome of the Detroit Free Press:
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, a magician? Could be.
Miami Heat center Amar'e Stoudemire made some notable comments about his former team, the New York Knicks, upon his return to Madison Square Garden as a visitor in February.
For example, on the Jeremy Lin "Linsanity" craze of 2012, Stoudemire said, "If [Lin] stayed, it would've been cool. But everyone wasn't a fan of him being a new star," per Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Who wasn't a fan? Knicks resident star Carmelo Anthony? Hmm. Anthony himself seemed to weigh in shortly thereafter with a couple of nicely timed subtweets, including:
With Peyton Manning retired, it seemed almost a foregone conclusion the Denver Broncos would move forward with Brock Osweiler at quarterback. That's why his four-year, $72 million deal with the Houston Texans came as a surprise to so many (including free-agent QB Matt Flynn).
For their part, the Broncos took it mostly in stride. General manager John Elway said, "We've stayed true to our philosophy of building a team with players who want to be Denver Broncos and want to be here. That's been a successful approach for us," per an official team statement.
You're probably thinking that's more of a subcomment, but the team Twitter account promptly blasted it onto the Interweb, where it doubled as a pretty wicked subtweet:
The great thing about subtweeting is you can say something without actually saying it. In other words, it's been a great way around some pesky recruiting rules in college sports. The NCAA got wise in February, though, and announced a new rule prohibiting the use of an unsigned recruit's nickname via Twitter, according to Brad Barnes of the Texas A&M Athletic Compliance Office.
Tim Brewster, tight end coach, recruiting coordinator and subtweeter extraordinaire at Florida State, tweeted:
The might not even be a subtweet, just an emoji-laden piece of sarcasm. Then again, who knows what Brewster's code talk means?
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving
The Cleveland Cavaliers are practically running a subtweeting clinic in 2016—or at least LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are. Here are a couple from James on March 1 that, according to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com (via Charles Curtis of For the Win), could be a reference to his desire to get an enforcer on the team:
A few days later, there was this:
And then this from Irving:
What does it all mean!?
U.S. men's national soccer team coach Jurgen Klinsmann opted not to include Landon Donovan on the 2014 World Cup roster. Donovan, an American soccer icon, didn't love the decision, and he said so.
Still, a year after the men were eliminated in the round of 16, the snub was still (probably/maybe) on his mind. During the Women's World Cup in 2015, Donovan tweeted support for Abby Wambach, an aging veteran not unlike himself who contributed off the bench. Donovan for the win in the "Still Salty" subtweet category:
Late in the Golden State Warriors' 128-112 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in March, the Blazers' Damian Lillard and Dubs' Andre Iguodala dove for a loose ball. Iguodala ended up with an ankle injury that will cost him a couple of weeks, per Michael Pina of Fox Sports.
Warriors center Andrew Bogut was not pleased:
Bogut later explained by referencing his perception that international players are more likely to be labeled "dirty," according to Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News:
That would have been a national outrage if it was somebody else. It goes back to I don't think Damian did it on purpose. I don't think he did it on purpose. I don't think he tried to hurt Andre. But the be-all end-all, it's a reckless play.
Jim Harbaugh Again
In late 2014, the San Francisco 49ers and then-head coach Jim Harbaugh went through a not-so-mutual "mutual breakup."
As it turned out, his replacement didn't fare too well, either. Jim Tomsula was fired after just one season at the helm. Interestingly, Harbaugh had this to tweet immediately after the news broke:
NASCAR driver Joey Logano bested Matt Kenseth at Kansas in October after bumping and passing him at the end of the race. At the time, NASCAR Chairman Brian France called Logano's win "quintessential" racing, per Bob Pockrass of ESPN.com.
Kenseth wrecked Logano two weeks later at Martinsville and was suspended for what NASCAR deemed was an intentional act.
One week after that, Jimmie Johnson made a late pass on Brad Keselowski for the win at Texas Motor Speedway. Kenseth weighed in with a congratulatory tweet:
No one is condoning intentional car wrecks, but that subtweet was pretty masterful.
There can be danger in subtweeting—danger of getting caught, called out and mercilessly humiliated. Take @tlschwerz, for instance. The Cleveland Indians taught him the hard way—don't assume using the # over the @ will keep you safe from Twitter retribution: