Was A Cheating Scrabble Player Strip Searched? How a Corporate Tall Tale Generated Press for the World Scrabble Championships

Twitter legend alert: the story of a player at the World Scrabble championships is making the rounds; having lost a tile, supposedly, the genteel Englishman was accused by his Thai opponent of cheating and was ordered to strip to ensure he hadn't pocketed it. Slate:

The game occurred in the last round of the first day of play, last Thursday. Though the Thai players complained about the ruling en masse the next day, the dispute wasn’t even known to many of the 106 competitors, and it didn’t hit the media until the tournament ended on Sunday, with Nigel Richards of New Zealand solidifying a claim as Scrabble GOAT with his second world championship on top of three North American titles. So how did it become a worldwide story? 

The tournament sponsor Mattel, which owns the rights to Scrabble outside of North America, no doubt recognized that a story including the words Scrabble, cheating, and strip-search would be media catnip. On Saturday, in its Twitter feed from the championship, Mattel beganspreading the news: “Fuming Thai player calls on Brit Ed Martin to STRIP @worldscrabble11 as game ends with G tile missing—but judges refuse and Ed wins by 1pt.” In conjunction with the news of Richards’ victory and $20,000 first prize, Mattel’s public-relations staff mentioned the incident to reporters. (A Mattel spokesman told me a reporter for the Independent who was attending the event heard about it from players. The newspaper’s story, filed after the conclusion of the tournament, led with the tale of the G.)

As the piece goes on to say, the strip-search never happened—a simple removal of the jacket sufficed—and later the accused player posted to his Facebook page what actually happened to the missing Scrabble tile (he didn't cheat, nor was he naked). Read the full Slate story to find out the answer.


AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at October 24, 2011, 6:37am