Before their Game 2 win over the Chicago Bulls Thursday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers played an in-arena promo video that showed a man throwing his apparent girlfriend across the room because she was cheering for the Bulls instead of the Cavs. The 65-second video is a riff off of a recent health insurance commercial, but instead of making a light-hearted joke about not knowing how you might end up needing health care, it makes light of an instance of domestic violence.
After the man, a Cavs fan, tosses the woman to the ground, a voiceover tells viewers, “Don’t make the same mistake she made.” The video cuts to the pair sitting on the couch, where the woman, now in a Cavaliers shirt, apologizes. The video was briefly posted to Vimeo before it was taken down, but it is still available on YouTube (HT: @JimmyGotham):
Reporters who were in the arena Thursday night noticed the video and couldn’t believe it had played:
Though the most high-profile instances of domestic violence that have drawn attention to how sports handle them have occurred in other leagues, the NBA has not been immune. Shortly after the emergence of the Ray Rice tape and the ensuing scrutiny over the NFL’s handling of his suspension, NBA commissioner Adam Silver handed Charlotte Hornets forward Jeff Taylor a 24-game suspension after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence. Silver later said that the league would revisit its own domestic violence policy, much in the way the NFL and Major League Baseball have since.
The Cavs were obviously attempting to be funny by riffing off the other commercial. But somewhere along the line of approval, someone inside the organization should have realized what this would look like and the tone-deaf message it sends.