The New York Breakers’ Twitter Account Is Why We Lack Faith in the ISL

When the International Swimming League announced last week that they were taking on an ambitious 24-meet schedule spanning three continents and six months, it was met with the usual reaction to anything the ISL does these days: verbal eye-rolling from across swimming, snarky comments about payments, and a general exacerbation about the league’s ability to execute.

There were darker reactions from within the league that caused more specific concern: while some coaches and general managers (including Jason Lezak, who came on the SwimSwam podcast last week), seemed to be well-informed about the upcoming season, others were less so. Some have told SwimSwam that they generally knew the plan, but were caught off-guard by the announcement, while one general manager said that they weren’t informed of the expansion, and so was surprised by the announcement.

I have been one of the most vocal critics of the ISL’s organizational abilities. While acknowledging that the meets are a substantial upgrade in format from what we’re used to in swimming, I’ve lamented that the ISL’s inability to act as a professional sports league has damaged its reputation with the fan base and limited its expansion to a larger base.

A lot of the issues are inside-baseball without wide appeal. But there is one major lingering issue for the league that can sum up its struggles succinctly: the Twitter account of the New York Breakers.

Twitter has not been a major platform for the league. Their efforts have focused mostly on Facebook and Instagram. The league’s Twitter account has been inconsistent – it was silent during the 2021 season, though after their announcement last week it has become more active.

The league’s TikTok account hasn’t posted a video since October 2019.

Most of the league’s teams have Twitter accounts, which have varying levels of engagement and activity. The 2020 champion Cali Condors are the most active and have continued as such even into the offseason, while the London Roar have the most followers at 5,521.

The account that has most recently caught attention for its activity, though, is that of the New York Breakers: perhaps the league’s most beleaguered team that finished last in the regular season in 2019 and 2021 and 8th out of 10 teams in 2020.

The Breakers have become active in Tweeting and Retweeting anti-COVID-19-vaccine rhetoric, including a recent focus on the truckers rally in Canada protesting vaccine mandates.

The account Tweeted a handful of times during the ISL season, mostly links to streaming of matches, but in January took to Tweeting and Retweeting controversial topics from figures like Dr. Robert Malone, who are opposed to COVID-19 vaccines, as well as vaccine misinformation. One Tweet claimed that “everyone who died with COVID should be considered murdered” with a woman claiming that COVID-19 vaccines cause cancer. It includes Tweets from Pierre Kory, a doctor who testified in front of Congress that ivermectin would prevent sickness from COVID-19. He continued to spread that theory, even encouraging a twice-a-week regimen, after contracting a case of COVID-19 in spite of a weekly dose of the anti-parasitic medication.

The account shares Tweets claiming that masks don’t work, all while selling New York Breakers’ face masks in the official team store.

Other Tweets spreading disinformation have been removed by Twitter.

The account’s latest Tweet compares the Canadian government’s vaccine mandates to the Nazis: the regime that put to death of 6 million Jewish people, among others, in the 1940s, which was a major conflict point of World War II.

I’m not going to dive into the facts about what the account is Tweeting or not Tweeting, because there are plenty of news organizations doing that, and it distracts from the point:

The ISL is aware of these Tweets, which I know because I told them about the Tweets, and haven’t done anything about them. The account is currently managed by Tina Andrew according to a Tweet, who doesn’t have a personal account. The Tweets mimic Andrew’s posts on other social media accounts.

“We do live in a free country,” the Tweet identifying Andrew as the manager said. “I’m not spreading mis-information. Happy to defend every single repost I made you disagree with. And if you don’t like it, you know what to do. Would be sad to see you go! We stand for FREEDOM!”

Andrew used the word “we,” implying that she still speaks for the team.

The account is still listed as the “New York Breakers Official Account” in its bio, in spite of the fact that Andrew resigned as the team’s general manager last year.

And the ISL has either chosen not to, or been unable to, regain control of the account.

No genuine professional sports league in the world would allow a team to go this far off the rails without being reigned in. While intervention in political topics have become more common in pro sports throughout the pandemic and the social justice protests of 2020 and 2021, the messages are carefully-crafted, with input from athletes and other stakeholders.

Without any apparent input from anybody, though, Andrew has turned the team’s Twitter account into her personal sounding board about COVID-19 vaccines, while maintaining the league’s branding and identity on the account.

While pro sports teams usually have some autonomy about what they post, there are guard rails. And remember: while ISL teams are beginning to generate some revenue, the vast majority of league expenses are still funded by Konstantin Grigorishin, the league’s founder, out of his personal coffers.

The Breakers are already fighting an uphill battle competitively. While some athletes will agree with the Tweets, others will be deterred by them, making recruitment a minefield.

To be clear: the league has not made any vaccine mandate, and have not really said anything publicly about vaccines. So the Tweets are not some relevant protest against league policies.

But the league’s seeming indifference is an apt representation of the general laissez-faire response to things that they should care about, reminiscent of a league spokesperson telling SwimSwam the morning of the first day of the 2021 season that they could not provide a list of where the league was being televised.

The league has a lot of things going for it. A good format, deep pockets and long runways, participation of the world’s biggest swimming star Caeleb Dressel, a team atmosphere that athletes love, and a handful of very-engaged general managers.

I want the league to succeed. I sometimes feel as though my criticisms are too hard, but then I am reminded of the league’s failings to react to even the most basic and fundamental improvements that could be made.

Bu until the league takes itself seriously, and earnestly absorbs its duties as a ‘professional sporting endeavor,’ it is going to be really hard for the rest of us to take it seriously, too.

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jdsmitty1
5 months ago

W post Braden

Case by Case
5 months ago

If everyone swims in the correct lane for their skill level and takes care of their own side of the lane, then there will be harmony in the sea of humanity.

Not-so-Silent Observer
Reply to  Case by Case
5 months ago

Caring about oneself and no one else is what got us to this place and time, so I’d go out and say that is the wrong approach…

Case by Case
Reply to  Not-so-Silent Observer
5 months ago

Ok grab the ankles of the person in front of you and kick really hard.

Case by Case
5 months ago

Sad “bu” true.

Corn Pop
5 months ago

Toronto whatever should change their name to Team Truckistan . London to Team Party .
Get relevant or controversial ( either) or lose out on social media .

Irish Ringer
5 months ago

That account should be used for New York Breakers related posts, but I’m fine with them saying whatever they want on their personal accounts.

McKeown-Hodges-McKeon-Campbell
Reply to  Irish Ringer
5 months ago

deleted

Last edited 5 months ago by McKeown-Hodges-McKeon-Campbell
McKeown-Hodges-McKeon-Campbell
5 months ago

FINA put the ISL in a great position in the last few weeks with all the WC drama. but once again, the ISL pulls through and somehow manages to make themselves look even worse

Anonymous
5 months ago

Madeline Jane “Maya” DiRado was right.

moonlight
5 months ago

I’ve always thought the pairing of the Andrew family to New York was odd. As far as I know, there’s zero geographic connection between them and New York. The Breakers is just a strange team overall.

Gulliver’s Swimming Travels
Reply to  moonlight
5 months ago

I doubt the Kansas Breakers would have attracted any international talent. But for real — as a born and raised New Yorker, their values could not possibly be less aligned with the city as a whole.

Dudeman
Reply to  moonlight
5 months ago

Wouldn’t be ideal to have every american ISL team be associated with california, New york and cali are constantly compared so it makes sense in a way

Dudeman
Reply to  Dudeman
5 months ago

I forgot about DC tridents after thinking about it for more than 5 seconds…

Gulliver’s Swimming Travels
Reply to  Dudeman
5 months ago

In addition to DC, they could have had a Chicago team that attracted top talent from the midwest, eg. all the IU pro-group. Or a Carolina-based team that scooped up the UVA, Bama, and Vols folks. Either a big city base or an ocean base. But not Kansas lol.

ALDASP
Reply to  Gulliver’s Swimming Travels
5 months ago

although for what it’s worth, as of last season a pretty large midwest group on DC (Miller, Apple, Andison, Samy, Grothe (IU or was at IU as of last season), Cope, Tucker (MICH), DeLoof (was a MICH, now at TENN, does that count?), Loy (OSU)) so I guess even tho they are a “DC team” they have a huge midwest gp already

Corn Pop
Reply to  Gulliver’s Swimming Travels
5 months ago

Why didn’t these people organise a ISL. team then ? What was stopping them?

Last edited 5 months ago by Corn Pop
Drewbrewsbeer
Reply to  moonlight
5 months ago

As much as I’d love a Kansas team, Austin makes some sense. Especially Northern Austin, maybe we have someone on the ground there 🤔

Drewbrewsbeer
Reply to  Braden Keith
5 months ago

I’ll have some cold beverages ready any time.

Case by Case
Reply to  Braden Keith
5 months ago

Those wide eyes are looking through rose colored glasses…the potential for billions of dollars in swimming revenue just ain’t there…at most it’s a fine boutique industry forever.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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