The NBA on Jan. 14 fined Kevin Durant $15,000 because he swore while answering a question during a postgame interview. He didn’t threaten anybody. There was no violence. Instead, he was asked a question after a bad loss and gave an honest answer in his own words. How dare he!
Profane language bothers some people. That’s understandable. But it’s 2022, and there are still people in the NBA corporate office running to tell the teacher that Kevin said a bad word? Seriously? Are they concerned that the folks tuning in for Leave It to Beaver after the Brooklyn Nets game are going to be offended?
Putting Kevin Durant’s comments into context matters
The Nets played the San Antonio Spurs at home on Jan. 9. Then they flew across three time zones to play a rescheduled game in Portland the following night.
A reporter asked Kevin Durant if the travel schedule contributed to Brooklyn losing to the struggling Portland Trail Blazers. He answered honestly and frankly.
“I’m not making no excuses about no flights or our schedule,” Durant said, according to Peter Botte of the New York Post. “Everybody’s schedule is f***ed up.”
NBA Communications released a tweet announcing Durant’s fine. He may or may not have finished eating his vegetables, as well.
First, Durant isn’t wrong. According to The Athletic, NBA teams will travel an estimated 43,000 miles this season. Many of us complain about a 25-minute drive to the mall.
However, beyond that is a broader point. Sports leagues want to market the personalities of their players. Then they punish a player for showing his character in a postgame interview.
It’s as if the NBA wants players to be as bland as possible. Just be dull with a personality. It’s mixed messaging at its finest.
If you punish players for honest answers, what you’ll get is the standard diet of cliches. Crash Davis could come out of retirement to give seminars to players on how to conduct interviews properly.
Has the NBA considered why players on podcasts are so popular?
In the modern media age, players have multiple outlets to transmit their messages. The popularity of podcasts didn’t soar because Kevin Durant and other players came on to say that they’re “just taking ’em one day at a time, and the good Lord willing, it’ll turn out all right.”
Instead, podcasts grew popular because players could be themselves. Sometimes it’s funny. At times, it’s NSFW. Those two aren’t mutually exclusive.
We know what’s next: But what about the children? What about the obligation of players to be role models to impressionable youths?
Have you heard what goes on when children are playing online video games? An NBA player who drops a single F-bomb in frustration after a loss pales compared to the conversations in the headset attached to a game controller.
Basketball is an emotional game. Fans expect players to be passionate about it.
So why is there an expectation that Emily Post rules of etiquette apply when answering a question about how the team played or why it lost?
Kevin Durant is known for stating his mind in his terms
For Kevin Durant, it’s not like a $15,000 fine is going to render him incapable of paying his expenses. A $15,000 fine for Durant, who has a salary of $40.9 million this season, is equivalent to a person making $35,000 a year docked about $13.
It’s not about the money. It’s about the message.
Have those in the executive suites monitoring the language during postgame press availabilities been to a basketball court? If not, it’s no wonder a single profanity sends them over the edge.
It’s a different world. You might be hard-pressed not to hear profanity if you listen for more than, say, 10 seconds or so.
The NBA is in the entertainment business. Are fans going to be entertained by guys giving monotonous, robotic answers to every question they field?
Durant expresses himself with some salty language at times. Like it, dislike it, but never question whether it’s genuine.
Isn’t that preferable to getting the same canned response 82 nights a year?
The NBA tries to appeal to a broad base. It’s a small needle to thread, admittedly. But fining players for being honest in their responses invites them to be as dull as possible.
That doesn’t make the product better. It just makes it blander. Do we want that?
Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.