A fan base is not something that you should piss off for clicks.
You’d think that’s something that gets covered in Sports Social Media 101 but if it is, apparently the people in Ottawa missed that lesson.
On Monday afternoon the Ottawa Redblacks’ Twitter account decided that not only would they officially declare themselves unabashed supporters of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their playoff push, but that they would change their logo to green and claim they were doing so because it was what R-Nation wanted.
You don’t need to scroll far through the replies or quote tweets to realize that R-Nation does not appreciate having words put in their mouth. The official justification for said change is a poll they ran the day before.
Okay @CFL fans…who should we root for?????
— Ottawa REDBLACKS (@REDBLACKS) November 28, 2021
If you notice, the poll does not specifically ask R-Nation to vote — it asks CFL fans. There is also no mention that the team was planning to change their logo and Twitter handle to sound like a proud parent gushing over their favourite child’s accomplishments.
It wasn’t just fans upset either as current Redblacks players and coaches chimed in, although those tweets have since been deleted.
A small minority didn’t understand why most in R-Nation were up in arms, but while the Redblacks are a young organization, there’s decades of history between Ottawa and Saskatchewan’s football teams. The fan base has a lot of youth in it, which is good, but it also has a lot of people who have been around through all three franchises and remember the grievances. They include:
1) Defeating the Rough Riders in the 1966 Grey Cup.
2) Voting against keeping the Renegades afloat in 2006, then benefiting heavily from the ensuing dispersal draft to win the 2007 Grey Cup with a roster full of ex-Gades including M.O.P. quarterback Kerry Joseph.
3) Refusing to budge on their demand that an Ottawa franchise only be allowed to return to the league if they did not use the Rough Rider name despite co-existing for 72 years.
4) Their fanbase often bringing up the fact that Ottawa lost its team twice, as if Regina hasn’t held telethons and received NFL money to to keep their team from going under.
5) The stubborn insistence that they are “the best fans in the league” and “Canada’s team.”
7) The 2017 East Semi-Final. Ugh.
Now, is it petty to hold the things listed above against a team and its fanbase? Absolutely, but sports by their very nature are full of petty grievances and affronts — real or imagined. Fans clinging to such perceived slights is what drives hype, sells tickets and builds rivalries. All of which are good things for the league.
But the decision to fully embrace another team’s playoff run, especially a team that is considered a hated rival by many, while Ottawa is sitting outside the playoffs looking in, was borderline sacrilegious and a slap in the face to a loyal fan base that’s weathered two seasons of truly atrocious football.
— J Greer (@sinbinzebra) November 30, 2021
I get that there’s a need for teams to stay relevant and constantly be seeking engagement via fan interaction — doubly so when you have nothing else going on given that there are no games on the horizon until mid-2022 — but this tweet and the idea behind it should’ve stayed in the drafts folder. Why debase your organization and provide another franchise fodder for jokes?
However you slice it the entire concept was poorly thought out. It shows a lack of knowledge on the city’s football history and that the organization doesn’t have its finger on the pulse of R-Nation.
Not to mention, it’s this very kind of thing that makes the CFL look like a joke to casual sports fans. Honestly, can you picture the Sens changing their logo to blue and “stanning” the Leafs? What about the Raptors hopping on the Nets bandwagon? How about an NFL team? Do you think the Patriots would support the Colts by changing their online branding?
Hell, it’s not even like the B.C. Lions and Edmonton Elks — the other two non-playoff qualifiers — did it first and Ottawa was just following suit.
The Redblacks’ Twitter account has since changed their name and logo back to normal, but this was still a huge swing and a miss by the social media team. Hopefully they’ve learned that engagement at all costs, especially when the cost is embarrassing their own fan base, isn’t worth the clicks.