For some, the SNL alum’s commentary is the only reason to watch.
Leslie Jones has been one of the best parts of the Olympic Games over the last six years, and she hasn’t competed in one event. That’s why after Jones publicized her displeasure with her hilarious Olympics commentary being taken down and blocked on Twitter, NBC did the only thing it could in this situation: get out of the way of Jones and the jokes.
Jones has been tweeting from or about the Olympics since the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and she was up to her usual hilarious commentary for this year’s Winter Olympics before she was rudely interrupted. According to a tweet from the Saturday Night Live alum sent on February 7, Jones was pondering if this should be the last Olympics she live-tweets after the videos she accompanies with her Olympic tweets have been blocked. Since NBC is the official broadcaster of the Winter Olympics, they would own the rights to any footage of the Olympic Games, and thusly would be the only ones who could be raining on Jones’s parade. After her tweet, Jones shared a bevy of other tweets from people who were amazed she wasn’t sponsored by NBC to live-tweet, confessed to her tweets being the only way they watch the Olympics, and how the comedian shouldn’t be punished for helping NBC’s Olympic coverage stay relevant.
It took less than 24 hours for NBC to realize the error of its ways. NBC spokesman Greg Hughes tried to save face by telling the Associated Press on Monday night that Leslie’s videos were blocked due to a “third-party error,” and not because of the network. For anyone who’s had a tweet taken down because of a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violation initiated by the rights holder, you’re probably taking Hughes’ words with a grain of salt. Jones has yet to tweet about the Olympics since Hughes approved of her tweets, and there is no word if she’ll ever be back.
Ever since 2016, Jones’s tweets have given much-needed levity around athletic competitions that are sometimes taken too seriously. She’s given the Rio Olympics’ animal amalgamation of a mascot the same excitement most of us gave Pokemon we found in the wild when we were all obsessed with Pokemon Go. She’s judged an Olympic ice skater at the 2018 Winter Olympics by his outfit and ability to do a Beyonce pose. Days before she openly considered ending her live tweets, Jones educated us on how a women’s hockey game could turn violent because they fight with hockey sticks. Her last three tweets about the Winter Olympics amassed more than 260,000 views — numbers NBC and the Olympics would die for.
Hours after NBC revealed Jones will be able to live-tweet without being blocked, news came out about the Winter Olympics being on track to the lowest-rated Winter Olympics in history. Last year, the 2021 Olympic Games’ viewership plummeted by nearly 50% compared to the 2016 Olympics. Last Friday’s Winter Olympics coverage averaged 12.8 million viewers, a significant drop off from the 27.8 million average of the Winter Olympics in 2018. Last year’s Olympic Games averaged 15.5 million total viewers, a massive decline from the 2016 Olympics which averaged 27.5 million. Whether it’s the 13-hour time difference or an American aversion to being reminded that it’s cold outside, the Olympics is not as popular as it once was.
Whichever entity disrupted Jones’s live-tweeting needs to understand that if Jones stops tweeting, the Olympics lose.