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Jazz punish employee for tweeting about Nets after Johnson firing

Deron Williams (Al Bello/Getty Images) Deron Williams was traded by the Jazz shortly after coach Jerry Sloan resigned. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

By Ben Golliver

The Jazz, long regarded as one of the NBA's first-class organizations, have always run a tight ship. This week we learned that the organization's expectations for discipline and conduct extend to its social media presence.

The Deseret News reported Friday that the Jazz have punished an employee who posted a Twitter message that could be viewed as critical of the Nets in the hours after Brooklyn fired coach Avery Johnson. The Jazz issued the following statement.

Posting on the official @UtahJazz Twitter feed, an unidentified employee suggested that legendary coach Phil Jackson would not be interested in replacing Johnson as Nets coach.

"Phil Jackson won't go to Brooklyn," the message read. "He'll only go somewhere he can win a title. Not interested in good players, he wants great players."

The message was later deleted, but not before an image of the tweet was captured and circulated. The tweet caused the Jazz to issue the following statement.

"Yesterday, a member of the Utah Jazz staff posted an inappropriate Tweet to the official Jazz account. This employee no longer has login access to the Jazz Twitter account and further disciplinary action is being taken internally."

"The Jazz does not comment on other NBA teams transactions and furthermore, does not condone any negative comments about any players, coaches, or front office staff throughout the league. It is simply unprofessional and unacceptable."

Recent history between the two franchises is critical to understanding both the tweet and the organization's reaction. The Jazz traded All-Star guard Deron Williams to the Nets in Feb. 2011, just two weeks after legendary Jazz coach Jerry Sloan abruptly resigned amid reports of locker room arguments with Williams. Then, last week, Williams told reporters that he felt more comfortable under Sloan's offensive system than he did under Johnson's, comments that became a much bigger deal once Johnson was fired just days later.

Think the Jazz overreacted? Is it really that bad to say that a team is full of "good" players? Isn't "good" generally seen as a compliment? And wasn't the tweet fairly accurate? Why would Jackson leave the comforts of retirement in Montana and Southern California to coach a .500ish team with huge long-term salary commitments and work for an owner with monstrous expectations and a GM with a shaky track record?

The tweet wasn't slanderous, it wasn't factually incorrect, it wasn't particularly mean-spirited and it wasn't even all that snarky, although tone can be difficult to read on Twitter. Still, it was a personal commentary that shouldn't have been aired on the official team account. Even though professional sports teams use Twitter in all sorts of manners and with many different approaches, the sentiment expressed is just out of step with the "Jazz way." It's impossible to imagine the buttoned-up trio of executive Kevin O'Connor, GM Dennis Lindsey or coach Tyrone Corbin getting in this type of dig, especially just a few hours after an emotional firing that involved an industry colleague lose his job and a prominent former Jazz player subjected to national criticism.

By NBA standards, the Jazz didn't need to discipline the employee and they definitely didn't need to issue a statement about it. Deleting the tweet and apologizing on Twitter would have been plenty. But, by their own standards, the Jazz likely felt that they had no choice, just so it was clear to everyone where they stood. And that's why they are the Jazz.
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