Sunday night’s NBA playoff game involving the team owned by Donald Sterling, at the center of a just-erupted and massive racism controversy, generated by far the week’s biggest Twitter audience of any TV programming, according to Nielsen. The Los Angeles Clippers’ lopsided loss to the Golden State Warriors generated a Twitter audience of nearly 8.1 million people, who saw 590,000 tweets about the game during and the three hours before and after it. That was easily the week’s biggest TV-related audience on Twitter, 2 million more than any other show, and nearly 5 million more than any non-sports event. Controversy blew up Friday after TMZ published an audio recording reportedly of Sterling ranting on the phone to his girlfriend about her being seen in public with black people.
The NBA — about three-fourths of whose players are African-American — announced an immediate investigation, and the league’s players association enlisted former NBA star and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to lobby for a stiff and swift punishment of the 81-year-old billionaire, including banning him from further participation in league playoffs. Before Sunday night’s game, Clippers players turned their warmup jerseys inside out to obscure team logos. Many of the team’s corporate sponsors, including such companies as Kia and Carfax, also have ended or suspended their relationships with the team. The firestorm on Twitter was predictably massive, from many different directions, and #DonaldSterling is still a trending topic on Twitter three days later.
Sterling def. a racist,but take away his team? Clippers shldn’t have played yesterday? Calm down,being an asshole is still legal in America
— Bill Maher (@billmaher) April 28, 2014
Even without the combustible Sterling controversy, however, it was another good week for all NBA programming on Twitter, as it was the previous week, as once again nine NBA playoff games spread across four networks filled the top 10 list. Only a Major League Baseball game between ESPN’s most reliable antagonists — the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees — broke through, at No. 8.
On the non-sports side, where reality competitions and awards shows tend to draw the most-involved online audiences, The Voice continued its strong run with both the No. 1 (an audience of 3.2 million unique followers of tweets about the show) and No. 4 spots for the period from April 21-27, much as it did the previous week. More generally, music-related shows were big, with two awards shows (including Telemundo’s Spanish-language Billboard Latin Music Awards) and American Idol also in the top 10. Among scripted shows, HBO’s Game Of Thrones continued to be strong online, and was joined this week by NBC’s Parks And Recreation season finale and the long-awaited fourth-season premiere of The Boondocks on Adult Swim.
The Boondocks, based on Aaron McGruder’s syndicated comic strip, returned to the air April 21 after a four-year hiatus and without McGruder’s involvement for a final season. It’s worth noting that when The Boondocks was last on the air, Twitter was still a corporate toddler, barely four years old and still very much a niche social media network.