As word spread Friday afternoon that legendary Hall of Fame boxer Muhammad Ali was in increasingly bad health, people began to ready themselves for the seemingly inevitable news of his passing. As day turned to night, that news had yet to come, providing a sliver of hope that it remained possible Ali could pull through his reported respiratory issues.
Then something weird happened. Some of the 22,269 announced fans in Little Havana who had just watched the Marlins (this isn't the odd part) lose 6-2 to the Mets began tweeting that the team had announced Muhammad Ali had died and then ran a tribute video in his honor.
That would be bad. That's not what happened, though. Team reps say they actually had solid information that Muhammed Ali had died and unwittingly broke the news to the rest of Earth.
“It was not an error,” Marlins president David Samson said. “We were informed by someone close to the family that he had passed away. We wanted to get a tribute out as soon as we possibly could.”Apparently, according to Samson, a moment of silence before the Marlins-Mets 4:10 p.m. first pitch the following day was too far away, so the team hustled to get something done now. Only after the Marlins' gave their Ali tribute did they realize they had played TMZ for a night. Samson told reporters:
"I already had thought of a moment of silence, but knew we couldn't do that until the next game. And then it went on the board and that was it. And then all of a sudden my phone wouldn't stop ringing and the texts wouldn't stop and no one could find confirmation anywhere. And I realized that it's possible that that was the first place it had been public."Samson claims the team would have never run the tribute video had they known no one else had reported Ali's death yet. Though it's tough to wrap our heads around the fact that David Samson couldn't simply log into Twitter or Google "Muhammed Ali" and see nothing regarding a death report, it seems, amazingly, that's actually what happened.
"And I had no way of knowing that," he said. "There is no way I would have broken the news of Muhammad Ali's passing at a Marlins game or anyone. It was certainly for the family to do. But as far as I knew, it had already been made public."Samson went on to explain that the Marlins had a special bond with Ali because he was the first man they asked to throw out the first pitch in their new ballpark.
“He’s an important part of our organization,” Samson said. “He opened our new ballpark. Being that he had thrown out the first pitch of this ballpark, and has a close relationship [with the Marlins], we wanted to honor him as quickly as possible. His legacy will live forever.”In the end, it's a no-harm-no-foul situation, but unfortunately, one that could have been easily avoided if the Marlins simply put their ears or eyes to the social media streets for a moment.
If they had done so, they wouldn't be in the news again for all the wrong reasons.