MLB

A Controversial Tweet Created an Ugly Fight Between the Rays and Local Police

A tweet the Tampa Bay Rays hoped would be inpsirational instead landed the organization in hot water.

On July 24, the Rays tweeted about Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed by police in Kentucky. Florida police officers that work Rays games aren’t happy the team ventured into that political territory.

Here is the latest between the Tampa Bay Rays and local officers, as well as why it could have a major impact on sports going forward.

The Tampa Bay Rays tweeted about Breonna Taylor

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The Tampa Bay Rays are one of many baseball teams that have used their social media pages for reasons other than posting scores and lineups.

On July 24, the Rays went a step beyond memes and photos. Hours before the Rays opened play against the Toronto Blue Jays, the team ventured into the political realm.

“Today is Opening Day, which means it’s a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor,” the team wrote.

The tweet has over 380,000 likes as of July 31.

Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old Black woman shot by Louisville police on March 13. The officers had a no-knock warrant and forced their way into her apartment.

According to the New York Times, Louisville police only fired their service weapons after Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, shot at them.

One of the officers has been fired. The city also banned no-knock warrants.

Local police weren’t happy the Ray tweeted that

The Tampa Bay Rays upset local police after a controversial tweet.
The Tampa Bay Rays upset local police after a controversial tweet. | Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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The Tampa Bay Rays play in St. Petersburg, Fla., meaning that area’s police department work Rays games. However, Pinellas County often helps the Rays with traffic control, security, and guarding concessions money, among other tasks.

That relationship may come to an end. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times he wasn’t happy with the tweet and called it “reckless.”

Gualtieri added he spoke with Rays president Matt Silverman about the post.

“To turn a baseball event into a political event is uncalled for. It’s just wrong, and it’s improper. … It’s throwing gasoline on the fire, and it didn’t need to happen.”

Gualtieri said he will re-evaluate how much his agency will help the Rays going forward.

St. Petersburg police Chief Anthony Holloway told the Times he disagreed with the tweet’s “characterization of the officers.”

Holloway said the tweet “will no not impact our commitment as a professional agency to provide a secure environment for fans at future Rays games.”

The Rays’ tweet could affect many other sports

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Tampa Bay Rays president Matt Silverman told Bob Gualtieri that upper management never authorized the controversial tweet.

That fact could have a long-term impact on sports teams going forward. Players like LeBron James or Michael Thomas who speak out in favor of social movements or against police have considerably more leeway than a team employee.

The bottom line always speaks loudest. The Rays’ bottom line is already impacted because they are playing games without fans.

Teams now may need to worry about the damage an employee can create by tweeting. Some Rays fans took issue with the Breonna Taylor tweet when it first appeared on their timelines.

“Whoever is responsible for sending this tweet should be fired! A great day to unite everyone around the community and team but Rays decide to create divisiveness instead. Very Disappointed. Enjoy Montreal!” one user wrote.

Another Twitter user wrote, “This is unprofessional at the very least. Rays imply that people are guilty without due process?”

The Rays haven’t publicly addressed the employee’s decision to tweet about Breonna Taylor. With how much attention the Times’ story is receiving, the team may want to clear things up.