On Monday, former Lynx and Timberwolves announcer John Focke was suspended by his current employer, the Charlotte Hornets, for using a racist slur in a Twitter post about the NBA playoff series between the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets.
He apologized and deleted the tweet.
Focke told the Charlotte Observer afterward that he mistyped a tweet in which he meant to write: “Shot making in this Jazz-Nuggets game is awesome! Murray and Mitchell going back and forth what a game!”
Scott Fowler of the Observer wrote on Tuesday: "Focke was using an iPhone to send this tweet. Look down at your own screen. The 'u' is next to the “i.” The 't' is next to the 'r.' The other five letters of those two words are the same.' That doesn’t excuse Focke’s mistake. Far from it. Focke screwed up badly and knows it."
Focke, who was play-by-play announcer for the Lynx through the 2018 season, as well as studio host and executive producer for Timberwolves games, has been defended on social media by Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and assistant coach Rebekkah Brunson, a key member of the four WNBA title teams.
"I know John to be one of the kindest, gentlest, good-hearted individuals I have ever worked with,"Reeve wrote. "Not only do I unequivocally know that John Focke is not a racist and does not use racist language, I know his heart is one filled with love for everyone. As John stated, this was a horrific mistake."
What should happen now?
The former ESPN reporter, J.A. Adande, now the director of the sports journalism program at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, told Fowler: "“If it’s a clear mistake, without any intent, I don’t think you fire him. I don’t think that one tweet, in and of itself, is grounds for firing. But there should be an investigation, and you have to consider both context and intention for everything. If you find that he used the word regularly, then you absolutely fire him. I’d certainly do some forensics on his phone as part of the investigation.”
Fowler also talked to a communication studies professor at UNC Charlotte. “I accept Focke’s explanation,” Alan Freitag said. “It doesn’t sound like there’s any intention here, and his remorse seems sincere."
Freitag then added what should be second-nature to everyone: "What this does point out, though, is the importance of social media discipline. Everyone needs more of it.”