A decision by Fox to cut away from a moment of silence to air a commercial prior to Sunday's game between the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns was swiftly criticized on social media sites.
The network aired the public address announcement at Cleveland Browns Stadium that asked fans to honor the victims of Friday's elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. For 17 seconds, as the stadium grew silent, the network aired its live feed, showing reaction from players, coaches and fans. Then, as a camera showing a wide view of the stadium raised toward the sky, the picture faded out quickly and a Geico commercial featuring the company's animated gecko came on screen.
There was no music, no graphics and no warning from the booth. This made for an uncomfortable transition when a sobering moment of reflection was replaced by a gecko talking about customer satisfaction rates.
The negative reaction on Twitter came immediately.
Joseph White of the Associated Press expressed his surprise with a simple "wow." Cindy Boren, who was running a live chat on the website for The Washington Post called the move tacky. Other reactions on Twitter ranged from disgust to disbelief.
They were warranted. Fox had stayed with the moment of silence for nearly 17 seconds. Couldn't the network have waited until the end before cutting to commercial? Without a warning that commercials were coming, the juxtaposition of the images of a respectful crowd and a loud advertisement -- whether accidental or intentional -- was tone-deaf.
But Fox was in a no-win situation no matter when it went to commercial. There is no good way to transition from a remembrance of 27 murder victims to something as frivolous as a football game.