LeBron James quickly deleted his inflammatory tweet targeting an Ohio police officer, but Twitter is being accused of selective enforcement for taking no action against the NBA superstar’s account.
Mr. James arguably violated Twitter policies against violent threats” and “Wishing, hoping or calling for serious harm on a person” with his Tuesday tweet, which showed a photo of the officer who shot and killed a knife-wielding teen below the caption “YOU’RE NEXT” with an hourglass emoji.
Even so, Twitter has taken a hands-off approach. A Twitter spokesperson said “our teams cannot evaluate deleted Tweets since they no longer exist on the service” in a Friday email to The Washington Times, although screen grabs of the tweet are ubiquitous on social media.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, on Friday commended Mr. James for removing the tweet, but called Twitter‘s enforcement of its rules “utterly arbitrary.”
“Twitter is utterly arbitrary in how it handles this,” Mr. Cruz said on Fox’s “The Faulkner Focus.” “And that’s really the whole point. They have the power. They’re the black box.”
Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican, tweeted that Twitter “seems to enforce their Terms of Service very selectively,” while conservative media critic Stephen L. Miller declared that “Twitter wants people like LeBron putting targets on people.”
Wilfred Reilly, Kentucky State University associate professor, asked, “wouldn’t LeBron James literally doxxing a cop—picture, badge visible, 50 million followers—presumably violate some element of the twitter TOS?”
“This is disgraceful and dangerous. Is the NBA okay with this? Is Twitter?” tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican.
Others pointed to Twitter‘s history of taking action against prominent conservatives. So far this year, Twitter has permanently banned former President Trump, Project Veritas president James O’Keefe and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.
“Twitter‘s argument that it cannot evaluate deleted tweets stands in stark contrast to the standard it has applied against conservatives for years,” said the conservative Media Research Center’s Autumn Johnson in a Thursday post headlined, “Twitter Again Shows Hypocrisy.”
“I was suspended from Twitter for sharing a news story about a BLM leader purchasing expensive homes,” tweeted conservative radio host Kenny Webster. “Why wasn’t LeBron reprimanded for trying to get a police officer murdered?
Video of the Tuesday shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant showed her attacking another Black teenage girl with a knife immediately before she was shot in Columbus, Ohio. The incident is under investigation, and the officer is on administrative leave.
Mr. James, who has 49.6 million followers, explained his initial post by tweeting, that “I’m so damn tired of seeing Black people killed by police,” but that his tweet was “being used to create more hate.”
“LeBron James has something like 50 million followers on Twitter,” Mr. Cruz said. “When he targets this police officer, some might read that tweet as an invitation for violence against that officer. Everyone reads that tweet as an invitation for this officer to be demonized, and that’s the wrong approach.”