The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 118-117 on Thursday night in the opening game of the 2023-24 NBA regular season. At one point, the Bucks led by as much as 20 points, but allowed the 76ers to fight their way back into the game. Philadelphia even took the lead for a brief moment in the fourth quarter.
However, newly acquired point guard Damian Lillard took over in the final five minutes of the game, scoring 14 of his 39 points in that span, including a three pointer with seconds remaining to ice the game for Milwaukee.
As the game was ending ESPN’s SportsCenter account posted the following video on social media:
DAME DIDN’T COME TO MILWAUKEE TO WASTE HIS TIME 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/vw6Coa6JG0
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 27, 2023
There is only one problem with the video: while it is Lillard and it is an interview that he did, the actual clip came during the 2020 NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida while he was still with the Portland Trailblazers.
Bucks and other NBA fans were less than trilled with the sports media giant.
ESPN Comes Under Fire for Misrepresenting Milwaukee Bucks Point Guard Damian Lillard
In the highly edited video, Lillard is heard saying, “It’s all I’ve ever wanted. I didn’t come here to waste my time.” The way that ESPN portrays him, it would appear that he was saying that he didn’t come to Milwaukee to waste his time winning a NBA Championship, which is what he has always wanted.
In actuality, Lillard gave the interview as a member of the Trailblazers, who made the NBA Playoffs in 2020 despite having a losing record. In the real interview, he was saying he believed Portland had a chance to win in those playoffs, and that he did not come to the NBA bubble to waste his time.
Fans were quick to notice the obvious deep fake technology and poorly copied logo on the court behind Lillard. They let ESPN know that this kind of engagement was unacceptable for any sports media company, much less the biggest one in the world:
ESPN took an interview from 2020, edited Damian Lillard into a Bucks uniform, making it seem like he said these comments after his first game in Milwaukee in 2023.
Posted it on ESPN Instagram with no disclaimer. pic.twitter.com/ALEuqRr7dx
— Bri Amaranthus (@BriAmaranthus) October 27, 2023
This is truly embarrassing for @espn. Changing Damian Lillard‘s uniform and making it seem like a comment from three years ago was made after his trade to Milwaukee? Dangerous precedent to set for sports reporting. https://t.co/zWXVzOC4Aq
— Dan Kelley (@DanKelley66) October 28, 2023
If this passes ESPN editorial standards, their journalistic days are over. As @DannyMarang spotted, the clip is manipulated w/o disclosure. It’s an interview Lillard did in 2020 with TNT while a Blazer. ESPN edited his jersey and the mic flag and added a logo to the floor. https://t.co/lLGEuIiSnB
— Dylan McLemore (@voiceofD) October 27, 2023
ESPN, who previously lit the “’embrace the debate’ loudest one in the room wins” fuse, and more recently gives airtime to a vax skeptic to mock public health officials, now posts deepfake – actually from 2020 – of Lillard wearing a different uniform and talking about NBA Bubble https://t.co/Logdc6bAXJ
— Andy Miller (@AndyMacMiller) October 28, 2023
This is deeply concerning behavior from ESPN! Essentially spreading fake news and using deep fake like it’s normal. If I was Lillard and TNT I would sue their ass off! https://t.co/wUrdqafa3R
— Dave (@dkrilic) October 28, 2023
ESPN Releases a Statement Regarding Their Editing of Damian Lillard to a Milwaukee Bucks Jersey
According to the site, Awful Announcing, which is dedicated to highlighting journalistic mistakes and misuse of media, an ESPN spokesperson said:
“We occasionally look to connect sports moments of the past with contemporary imagery and storylines as part of our social content. While it was never our intention to misrepresent anything for fans, we completely recognize how this instance caused confusion.”
Notice that ESPN is not apologizing. They are simply stating that they recognize that people are upset, and that they will probably do it again (as they have done it occasionally in the past).