That’s what happened to the NFL’s New England Patriots this week, when the football team’s attempt to reward their followers on Twitter turned into a social media manager’s worst nightmare.
It all began Thursday morning, when the Patriots tweeted they were celebrating reaching 1 million followers by thanking fans with “custom digital Pats jerseys.”
The “custom digital jersey” was actually a photo of the back of a Patriots jersey displaying a fan’s Twitter handle where the player’s name appears. So if your Twitter handle is, say, @ILoveCookies, you got a tweet from the Patriots account that included a photo of the jersey with @ILoveCookies on the back, along with a thank-you note.
But what if the Twitter handle contains a racial slur? The Patriots didn’t think that through. When a Twitter user with the name @IHateN*****ss asked for a jersey of their own, the Patriots cheerfully responded.
“@IHATEN*****SS Thanks for helping with 1 million followers!” the tweet said, along with the promised photo of a Patriots jersey bearing @IHATEN*****SS on the back.
The tweet stayed up for about an hour, to the incredulity of those online who spotted it. Soon after, the tweet was removed and the Patriots issued an apology.
The Patriots’ fiasco is the second major social media fail we’ve seen this week. Comedian Bill Cosby, who is facing allegations of rape, learned that encouraging Twitter to use his photo for a meme did not go the way he expected. Although Cosby has denied the allegations, people still mocked him by creating their own meme images that included rape jokes.
Check out the gallery above to see more major social media blunders.