‘Shootin’ B-ball’ Lyric Leads to Lockdown

Words are powerful.  They have the power to change perceptions, forge relationships and write the lines of history.

A Pittsburgh high school student learned that words also have the power to shut down his school, or rather, one word: b-ball.

School Shut Down Due to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Theme Song

According to CBS, the Pittsburgh student was called by a receptionist to confirm an appointment for that day.  When she heard his voicemail recording, she panicked and alerted the police.

The student was singing the iconic Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song, but the line “Shootin’ b-ball outside of the school” did not translate to the receptionist.  She thought he said “Shooting people.”

This led to a countywide school lockdown.  No one was hurt and it was later determined to be a misunderstanding.

However, it makes you think: How do people understand the words you say, Tweet and text?  For a student in Pittsburgh, the miscommunication was rooted in a generational gap (ask anyone born in the ’90s what “West Philadelphia” means to them and you’ll likely get well-intentioned rendition of the sitcom theme song).

As a public relations practitioner, what does this case of “telephone” say about communication as a whole?

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1 Response to ‘Shootin’ B-ball’ Lyric Leads to Lockdown

  1. Tessa Turnbow says:

    As a PR practitioner, I think this situation tells us that communication is the most important component in any situation. In this instance, if the boy would have communicated more clearly or the receptionist would have listened to the voicemail more than once or had someone else listened to it as well, this could have been avoided. Individually, we give and receive messages differently. The receptionist thought she heard the boy say “shooting people,” but if someone else listened to the message they may have heard what the boy actually said or something completely different. The bottom line is that communication is vital, and it is important to completely understand what is being conveyed before taking any action.

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