Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving was fined $25,000 for his refusal to speak to the media during the league’s “media week” ahead of the 2020-21 NBA season. Instead of speaking for himself, Irving instead issued a statement. The Nets organization was also fined $25,000 for allowing Irving to go without speaking to media members.
On Friday, Irving responded to the fine on social media, and appeared to call media members “pawns” in the process.
“I pray we utilize the ‘fine money’ for the marginalized communities in need, especially seeing where our world is presently,” Irving wrote. “[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.”
Irving’s decision not to speak with the media 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 initial 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 later 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 Nets star was labeled as a “disruptor” and was subject to harsh, personal criticisms. Irving later admitted on a podcast with Kevin Durant that he was in a “dark place” after the backlash.