This morning, Good Morning America's 88,000 and counting Twitter followers woke up to a pressing question: Would the (soon to be iconic) photo of LeBron James joyfully crying after leading the Cavaliers to Cleveland's first NBA Finals victory in 52 years become one of the greatest internet memes of all time?
GMA made the natural comparison between #CryingLebron and #CryingJordan, but also saw fit to include the much less recognizable memes #smockin and #tealizard. As best as I can tell, #smockin is a misspelled reference to a line from 1994's The Mask starring Jim Carrey.
#TeaLizard, on the other hand, is what caught most peoples' eye for all the wrong reasons. Simply put, no one knew what #TeaLizard was.
Anyone who's spent even the slightest amount of time on the internet knows that particular photo of Kermit The Frog is from a 2014 Lipton Tea commercial titled, "Be More Kermit."
The 1:30-long ad spot features the famous Muppet strolling through a raucous city before settling down at a cafe to relax with a soothing cup of tea.
While it's unclear if Kermit was able to boost Lipton's sales, his brief stint as a tea spokesfrog gave birth to #ButThatsNoneOfMyBusiness, one of the greatest clapback hashtags to have ever made its way across Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.
There's an elegance to the meme that has a lot to do with the fact that it's pretty straightforward but keenly situated at various intersections shared by female and queer communities of color. In recent years, the idea of spilling tea (telling the shady truth/facts about someone) has become more popular in mainstream (read: straight, white) culture thanks to various celebrities and television shows like RuPaul's Drag Race.
The juxtaposition of Kermit The Frog and the phrase "But That's None Of My Business," though, is almost entirely the product of independent, largely unknown black comedians who began to put words into the frog's mouth back in 2014.
Know Your Meme traces some of the earliest instances of #KermitMemes back to Instagram the same year of the Lipton commercial's release. But the classic "But That's None Of My Business" image first popped up on Kermit The Snitch, a popular Tumblr blog featuring jokes and memes that most immediately read as black.
In the years since tea-sipping Kermit became a Thing, the meme's taken on a life much larger than that of a regular internet joke and become something of a symbol for the comedic brilliance born out of black communities on the internet.
Much like "woke" and "fleek" before it, "But That's None Of My Business" went on to become a standard part of social media parlance while its black creator(s) went largely uncredited, unrecognized, and unthanked. That's what made GMA's (purposefully) weird choice of #TeaLizard so offensive to some people on Twitter. GMA knows who Kermit is, they just stripped his famous meme of its connection to black people.
After tweeting out my disappointment that Good Morning America, a show aired by ABC, the same network that just canceled the newly rebooted Muppets series dissed its own intellectual property and seemingly didn't know the difference between reptiles and amphibians, GMA's social media editor Jeff D. Lowe explained to me that I just didn't get the joke. Tea Lizard, Lowe insisted, was a separate meme from the mind of an Isane Clown Posse parody account. (It should be noted that Fusion was previously partly owned by Disney, which owns ABC and GMA.)
To that, I, and many others only have one response:
UPDATE: Kermit The Frog himself has weighed in over the debate about the meme he inspired. He doesn't particularly see it for #TeaLizard.