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Why an MLS team creating a public "troll" list is never a good idea

Nobody said social media was easy, but this wasn't the right move.

Here's a troll you can safely name.
Here's a troll you can safely name.
Barry Durrant/Getty Images

Just a few days ago, I wrote the following about LAFC:

Still, some of the critiques raised on social media have been useful, others have been excessive, and others mean. The problem around MLS for LAFC at this point is that the meme that "LAFC have a shambles of a social media department" has stuck. No matter if a tweet or instagram post is innocuous, the neutral perspective is that it's all wrong, and that is something the club will have to contend with.

I stand by those words. Every week, somebody sends me a message saying to the effect, "Ugh, can you believe how awful LAFC's social media is? Look at what they did today!" And I look and it's often a pretty tame, noncontroversial tweet or instagram or whatever, and I think the meme is taking over actual reason.

But the club made some missteps the past few days, and there's no getting around it.

One of the club's employees, on his "personal work" Twitter account (his name and LAFC are both on it, is what I mean) posted a list of "Trolls," featuring three people who work in soccer media and live or have lived in LA. They are prominent on social media, to be sure.

I don't really think it's worth going over who they are and the specifics here, because that's not the point. All three have been vocal and critical of LAFC and in particular LAFC's social media strategy over the past year. They are influential, and while I don't agree with every point they have made, I do agree with some of their critiques.

So was this a joke? A new policy of putting people who don't always say nice things in their place? Naming and shaming?

The person who originally posted the list eventually sent out an apology to one of the people called a troll on Twitter, saying it was "intended as a joke. It mishit and I'm sorry for that."

Ok, fair enough. But I was scrolling through some tweets from before that, when I was out with my family and away from Twitter, and see another LAFC employee under his own "personal work" account sort of doubling down on the "Troll" business, telling another person "you are dangerously close to being added to the list."

I mean, come on. If this was meant to be some sort of serious, punitive thing, then threatening to add people to a "Troll" list on Twitter is only going to stoke people who want to wear it as a badge of honor, which is going to backfire as the critiques are going to become more petty and ridiculous.

If the whole thing was intended to be a joke, some kind of "banter," it is risky to the point of being self-sabotaging. I am often sarcastic, I realize using that rhetorically can be fun and sometimes effective but it also can be inappropriate, and in a professional context, sarcasm is rarely used, mostly because it can be misconstrued and land badly. There's a reason sports teams go earnest and peppy instead of cynical and sarcastic. Some of it is due to the constraints placed on social media employees by their employer, but some of it is common sense, that even if people are being horrible to you (short of threats of violence) you cannot lash out. You just have to take it.

Now, the "Troll" list makes LAFC look thin-skinned and out of touch, even if it was meant as some kind of "joke." Many people don't and won't get the humorous side of it, and the risk of alienating more folks sitting on the fence about the club increases. Also, it doesn't help that persistent meme I keep talking about, that LAFC can't put a foot right. I don't agree with that assessment, but I can't defend a public list to "name and shame" critics, either, because it's not productive and really fuels the fires of these critics, yes, but also many more people not on the list who are watching every move the club makes.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!