SuperSport axes commentator over tweet

2011-02-25 11:07
SuperSport has fired Andrew 'Tank' Lanning for tweets about rugby. (Sport24.co.za)

SuperSport has fired Andrew 'Tank' Lanning for tweets about rugby. (Sport24.co.za)

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Cape Town - SuperSport has axed rugby commentator and Sport24 editor Andrew "Tank" Lanning for sending out a tweet during a closed workshop regarding the utilisation of players during a World Cup year.

"The tweet was: 'SA Rugby to 'manage' the Springboks during the Tri-Nations. I think it's a good thing,'" Lanning told News24 on Friday.

Expert opinion suggests that the focus for SA rugby should be on the Rugby World Cup rather than the Tri-Nations. However, SA Rugby is contractually bound to field the strongest team for the Tri-Nations and any hint of resting top players would be viewed as a breach of contract.

"SA Rugby asked me to delete the tweet and told SuperSport about it. SuperSport thought I had breached trust and cancelled my meeting with them in Johannesburg without reason.

"I called them childish," Lanning said.

Unrepentant

In its response, SuperSport acknowledged that it had parted ways with Lanning, but suggested that the decision was mutual.

"SuperSport regrets that Andrew Lanning, while attending a commentary workshop at SuperSport on Wednesday (February 23), chose to tweet regarding various confidential matters pertaining to both SuperSport and SA Rugby.

"As this is contrary to company policy, Andrew was admonished for his conduct. In response to this, Andrew expressed the opinion that SuperSport was conducting itself in a childish manner and proposed that he part ways with SuperSport. SuperSport, in the circumstances, accepted Andrew's suggestion to part ways," SuperSport communications manager Clinton van der Berg told News24 in an e-mailed statement.

Lanning though, is unrepentant and said that companies are "nervous" about social media.

"SuperSport panders to the needs of SA Rugby and rights owners. They are nervous about social media and out of touch with their viewers. SA Rugby treads very carefully; they try to ban it instead of trying to make it work for them."

Social media has become a hot topic in sport after England threatened to ban its players from using Facebook and Twitter. It later followed Australia's lead in allowing players to use social networks.

Recent incidents raise the debate once more on whether what is said on social networks can be used against employees.

'Honest opinion'

In 2010, CNN fired senior editor Octavia Nasr for a tweet that said she respected a Lebanese Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, branded a terrorist by the US.

Stuart MacLennan, candidate for the Scottish constituency of Moray was fired by the British Labour party for profanity-laced tweets about Labour and opposition politicians.

More recently, members of Britain's lower house of parliament were banned from using Twitter while sitting in the chamber after Labour MP Kevin Brennan complained during a debate that Julian Huppert of the Liberal Democrat party, which is part of the governing coalition, was tweeting.

Lanning though feels that there are more avenues to be expressive and said that South Africans are tired of organisations "patronising" them.

"I think people are tired of been spoken down to and I really enjoyed commentary, but there are other ways to express yourself. It should be about rugby. People want honest opinion."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

Read more on:    supersport  |  twitter  |  tank lanning  |  social networks
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