Kyrie Irving refused to talk to the media at the start of training camp, instead issuing a statement. The NBA fined Irving $25,000 because meeting with the media is part of his (and every NBA) contract.
Irving’s response? He took to Instagram to release another statement, complete with a Malcolm X quote.
“I pray we utilize the ‘fine money’ for the marginalized communities in need, especially seeing where our world is presently. I am here for Peace, Love, and Greatness. So stop distracting me and my team, and appreciate the Art. We move different over here.
“I do not talk to Pawns. My attention is worth more.”
NBA fine money is given to NBA Charities and used for various charitable causes around the nation. That has been a long-standing (and little discussed) league policy.
Former Irving teammate Kevin Love didn’t want to go down Irving’s statement road.
Cavs Kevin Love disagrees with former teammate Kyrie Irving’s stance on the media.
“Calling anybody a pawn is a sure sign of disrespect,” Love said. “I’m not a divisive person.” pic.twitter.com/4izgXgnO1A
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) December 11, 2020
As an NBA media member, am I a pawn in the system? Yes. Where Irving misses out is he is also a pawn in the NBA system — outside of Joe Tsai in Brooklyn, everyone is part of the system. The NBA is a business designed to make owners money over time with an entertainment product. Everyone is a gear in the machine serving that purpose.
Being a pawn doesn’t mean one cannot benefit — and, through their positions and money, help others in the community benefit — from being part of the system. It just means learning to work the system a little. LeBron James has become very good at it — he does speak to the media and answer some mundane questions after every game. He also can use the brand and good will he built up to help build a school in the neighborhood where he grew up, help political causes, and build his own media empire outside the league.
That doesn’t mean LeBron controls what is said about him — he has faced negativity, even while leading the Lakers to the Finals he got called out both for political stances and passing to a wide-open Danny Green. LeBron lets that criticism roll off his back (or, he uses it as motivation) and keeps pressing forward with his message, goals, and agenda. What the other pawns do does not change his goals.
Irving was rumored to talk about players starting their own league in the past, but the NBA’s infrastructure is not something easy to replicate, plus the NBA has an international brand and loyalty to it baked in. Nobody is replacing the NBA. If Irving wants his $33.3 million this season, there is only one game in town. Joe Tsai’s game.
If Irving wants to not speak to the media and write a $25,000 check every time he does it, that’s his prerogative.
But there would seem to be a better path to achieve his goals.