Encouraging players and coaches to work on broadcasts and then giving them tampering fines for doing their job is silly.
On Saturday night, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green made a seemingly innocuous comment about young Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker. It proved costly.
Working as an analyst for TNT’s Inside the NBA, since his Warriors were not good enough to earn an invite to the NBA bubble, Green said, “Get my man out of Phoenix. It’s not good for him, it’s not good for his career… I need my man to go somewhere where he can play great basketball all the time and win, because he’s that type of player.”
Draymond Green wants Devin Booker to leave Phoenix
Ernie: “Are you tampering?”
Draymond: “Maybe.” pic.twitter.com/gtWnEyr50n
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) August 7, 2020
Host Ernie Johnson responded to Green by asking if the three-time All-Star was tampering, doing so in a teasing tone that suggested such an accusation was silly.
It turns out he was tampering, and it was silly.
The NBA came down hard on Green the next morning, fining him $50,000 for the comments.
It’s not the first time a team employee-turned-analyst got hit with a fine for tampering. During ESPN’s preview show ahead of the 2019 NBA Finals, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that then-Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard was, “The most like [Michael] Jordan that we’ve seen.”
The league handed him the same $50,000 bill that they later gave Green.
OFFICIAL #NBA | The League has fined Los Angeles Clippers $50,000 for these comments (tampering) in which Doc Rivers compared Kawhi Leonard to Michael Jordan in an ESPN show | The comment occurs in the second number 49 of the video |
— Basket Flow (@RealBasketFlow) May 31, 2019
Never mind that Rivers clarified that Leonard wasn’t the best player since Jordan, just the most stylistically similar. Never mind that the conversation started when ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith asked if Leonard was the best player in the league, and Magic Johnson asked for Rivers’ opinion. And never mind that the salary cap-exceeding Warriors have no path at acquiring Booker, who won’t be a free agent until 2024.
Rivers, a coach, said something good about Leonard, a player, and was fined. Just like Green, a player, said something good about Booker, a player, and was fined.
The desire to quell tampering is understandable (albeit silly and futile), but the NBA is censoring the broadcast work that they’re allowing — no, encouraging — players and coaches to do.
Green appeared on Turner Sports, an NBA partner, presumably in exchange for money. Rivers appeared on ESPN, the NBA’s biggest broadcast partner, presumably in exchange for money.
They were speaking as analysts, not players and coaches, yet the fines do not reflect that. Green the player was punished for completely appropriate remarks by Green the analyst, just as Rivers the coach was reprimanded for completely appropriate remarks by Rivers the analyst.
Had any full-time analyst made those remarks, no one would have batted an eye. But because Green and Rivers have day jobs with teams, they get a slap on the wrist and a withdrawal from the wallet.
If the NBA doesn’t want their players and coaches to offer analysis, maybe they should stop letting them work as analysts.