Did Neymar Just Mock Stephen Hawking?

One of the world’s greatest scientists died Wednesday but one of the world’s greatest footballers made a tone-deaf tribute.

Stephen Hawking, perhaps the most famous scientist since Albert Einstein, passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 76, a sad day for anyone who appreciates science (or the technologies science has given us, which is to say all technology). But on Wednesday afternoon, a tone-deaf Neymar Stephen Hawking tribute has us wondering if the Brazilian soccer star was mocking the British scientist. 

Hawking, for those unfamiliar, was a brilliant theoretical physicist and cosmologist who most notably discovered Hawking radiation (of course he named it after himself), which explains how black holes do not have zero entropy and in fact emit radiation.

This tweet thread more elegantly explains Hawking’s brilliance for those interested:

These days, Hawking is better known for being that super smart guy in a wheel chair with a speaking device, but that does disservice to his contributions to humanity. He overcame ALS to bring science to the mainstream in areas it otherwise would not have been visible.

So it’s no surprise people of all backgrounds gave tribute to Hawking after his death on Wednesday. The Mexican national soccer team sent out this tweet.

But the Neymar Stephen Hawking tweet/tribute came off as insensitive and tactless. 

Neymar’s tweet would have been fine if he had just stuck to the quote, which translates to: “You have to have a positive attitude and get the best out of the situation in which you find yourself.” However, the inclusion of the photo strikes a nerve as being clumsy at best and cruel at worst. 

The Neymar Stephen Hawking tweet shows the PSG and Brazil star relaxing in the sun in a wheelchair, the iconic feature of Hawking. In the pic, Neymar has a boot on his right leg from a recent injury that kept him out of the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16 against Real Madrid.

Comparing his short-term leg injury to Hawking’s lifelong battle with ALS is not a good look for Neymar, who is typically pretty good about portraying a positive image in the media and social media. The smile on Neymar’s face almost seems as though he’s mocking Hawking for having lived most of his later years in a wheelchair, while Neymar knows he’ll be out running around by the time the World Cup arrives in the summer. 

But if there’s any consolation to the Neymar Stephen Hawking tweet, it’s that the scientist will be remembered by history for much longer than the footballer.

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