During normal times, each team has a set media day, where the front office personnel, coach and players address the media and speak about the upcoming season. Due to COVID-19, that was changed to a media week, where everything was spread out and taking place virtually video videoconferencing.
Even if it wasn’t in person, players were still expected to be available to answer questions at some point. Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving declined, choosing instead to issue a statement. For that decision, both Irving and the Nets have been fined $25,000 by the league.
The press release:
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving and the Nets organization have each been fined $25,000 for violating league rules governing media interview access, the NBA announced today. The fines result from Irving’s refusal on several occasions this week to participate in team media availability.
Irving’s decision became an immediate talking point, and led to a multi-day discourse about not only the player himself, but the way athletes interact with the media. Clearly, the league was not thrilled with what he did, nor the often negative press that followed.
In his statement, Irving said, “Instead of speaking to the media today, I am issuing this statement to ensure that my message is conveyed properly. I am committed to show up to work everyday, ready to have fun, compete, perform, and win championships alongside my teammates and colleagues in the Nets organization. My goal this season is to let my work on and off the court speak for itself.”
His publicist latter added, “This doesn’t mean he won’t do traditional media. He has every intent on building a mutually respectful relationship with the media.”
When he’ll talk remains to be seen, though the league is making it known through their punishment that they’d like it to be sooner rather than later. Irving has had a contentious relationship with the media for years, and each side has made their own missteps along the way. Over the summer, however, the media’s condemnation of Irving ahead of the NBA’s bubble experiment crossed a line.
Irving was leading a group concerned that returning to basketball would take away from the social justice movements spreading across the country, and in response the media labeled him a “disruptor” and offered harsh, personal criticisms. Irving later admitted on a podcast with Kevin Durant that he was in a “dark place” after the backlash.
While there are those who clearly disagree with Irving’s decision to avoid the media, and it is technically part of his job, it’s easy to see why he’s frustrated and intent on sending a message to start the season.