PORTLAND, Maine — A deep sea fishing captain found himself in trouble this week when a video of an altercation with a cyclist ended up on Facebook.
Capt. Jim Harkins, host of television show “Atlantic Adventures,” lost several key sponsors and learned what not to do in the age of social media.
Things got off to an ugly start on Monday when Jay Riley was riding his bike over the Martin’s Point Bridge between Falmouth and Portland. Harkin honked his vehicle’s horn and passed Riley too closely.
Riley posted a video of Harkins later shouting at him and then using a slur while driving by in a truck bearing the logo of his show, “Atlantic Adventures.”
Within days, over 900 people had “liked” the Facebook page “ Boycott Atlantic Adventures,” and Harkins had lost major sponsors for his show on Time Warner Cable’s Channel 9, including Shipyard Brewing Co., DiMillo’s Restaurant and Casablanca Cruises.
Tami Kennedy, spokeswoman for Shipyard Brewing Co., said Thursday that the company received ‘’a groundswell” of comments from customers on Facebook, by email and phone calls stating that language in the video concerned them.
“They were hopeful that Shipyard Brewing Co. as a Maine business, did not condone that type of language,” Kennedy said. “We watched the video clips and the words used and decided to suspend sponsorship at this time.”
Similarly, Casablanca Cruises on Wednesday posted on its Facebook page, “we have chosen to withdraw our sponsorship as well as our association with James Harkins from Atlantic Adventures effective immediately.”
Phone calls to Cabela’s and Hamilton Marine in Searsport, also advertising sponsors of Atlantic Adventures, were not returned.
Nory Jones, professor of management information systems at Maine Business School at the University of Maine, said that a video like Riley’s “creates an emotional connection with people” which can “go viral” at the speed of light.
“The power is amazing,” she said. “You just don’t know when it’s going to catch like that.”
In a telephone interview, Harkins apologized for his “inappropriate” outburst and said the video, posted Monday on Facebook, is “cleverly edited,” and his lawyers are pursuing legal action against Riley for “defamatory” actions.
But it was already too late.
These days sponsors are “very responsive to the mood,” and don’t want their brand damaged by backing something controversial, said Jones.
“The social media explosion is not linear, it’s exponential,” she said. “It’s mind-boggling.”
She offered Harkins some advice.
“What he probably should have done is be on top of it, gone on [Facebook] and faced it, said ‘I was wrong, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done those things,’ instead of letting it catch fire and take off,” Jones said.
Harkins said his attorney, Michael Vaillancourt of Ainsworth Thelin and Raftice, is “pursuing legal action” against Riley for damaging his business and reputation. Vaillancourt did not immediately return a phone call on Thursday.
Riley may press criminal charges.
Portland Police Officer Patrick Connolly said the video is part of his investigation, but wouldn’t say whether he thought it had been altered. “Even if it has been edited, that would only matter civilly. I’ve got no evidence of a crime on video”