ESPN faced a lot of criticism this week after fans noticed the media company using a deep fake version of a video of Milwaukee Bucks star Damian Lillard.
After Thursday night’s win by the Milwaukee Bucks over the Philadelphia 76ers, in which Lillard dropped 39 points and 8 rebounds, ESPN tweeted out a supposed clip of the point guard saying that he “didn’t come to Milwaukee to waste his time.”
DAME DIDN'T COME TO MILWAUKEE TO WASTE HIS TIME 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/vw6Coa6JG0
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 27, 2023
The problem with the clip is that it was from the 2019-2020 season after Lillard scored 61 points in a playoff game while he was still playing for Portland.
Instead of simply using a clip of the interview he gave after Thursday’s win, someone over at ESPN apparently decided to superimpose a Bucks jersey on Lillard.
They also put an ESPN microphone flag over the original interview that was done on TNT.
Damian Lillard Vs The Mavericks
Got The Blazers The 8 Seed He Ain’t Go To Bubble To Play Around 🗣💯 pic.twitter.com/P5TPRbilqi
— tsprague 🥶 (@Tspragueee) August 12, 2020
Over 30 hours later the original tweet has still not been deleted. Instead, people had to make an X Community Note issuing the correction to the post informing viewers that that the original video was actually from a previous season. The post currently has a Community Note that reads, “The video in the tweet has been digitally edited to change Lillard’s uniform, a logo on the floor, and add ESPN’s logo to the microphone flag.”
When reached for comment, an ESPN spokesperson gave a bizarre explanation that wasn’t even an apology but rather double-downed on the social media team’s decision to tweet out the deep fake.
“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,” the spokesperson said.
NBA fans weren’t happy about the deep fake video and they let ESPN hear it.
ESPN used deepfake tech to edit this clip — adding a Bucks jersey and court logo.
It’s originally from Damian Lillard’s time in the 2020 NBA bubble with Portland. https://t.co/KLwYGIECLf
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) October 27, 2023
SportsCenter’s been washed for years but this absolutely atrocious content 💀
— CFB Kings (@CFBKings) October 28, 2023
The Community Notes Per Usual pic.twitter.com/aKs1F56UGG
— rennaT (Tank Gunner) (@rennaTcMrennaT) October 28, 2023
Despite the backlash, the clip is still up on ESPN’s SportsCenter X page, where it has over nine million views.