Should The NBA Have Fined Michael Jordan $100,000 For Making A Comment About An NBA Player?
Michael Jordan is a very, very, very rich man. So when we heard that the NBA fined him $100,000 for making a public comment about Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut recently, we weren’t particularly worried. We’re sure that he’ll film a new Hanes commercial next week and be just fine when he mails a check to NBA Commissioner David Stern for 100 large.
However, we are a little bit worried about why the NBA fined MJ. At the start of the lockout, Stern strictly prohibited NBA owners from speaking to, meeting with, or even tweeting NBA players. It didn’t matter if they were players on their own teams or players from other teams—NBA owners simply weren’t allowed to have any contact with players. It didn’t stop there, though. Stern also didn’t want the owners talking about the players. So, if a newspaper called and asked about a specific player? They were to…well, we’re not exactly sure what they were supposed to do. Pretend like they didn’t know the player? Tell the newspaper that their phone was breaking up? Curse at the caller and hang up?
Whatever the case, Jordan—who owns the Charlotte Bobcats—was not shy about sharing his feelings on Bogut a few weeks ago when the Sydney Herald Sun called to ask him about superstar players playing for NBA teams in small markets. “We have stars like Bogut who are entitled to certain types of demands,” MJ told the Sun. “But for us to be profitable in small markets, we have to be able to win ball games and build a better basketball team…Bogut is a good piece to build around for Milwaukee…I love Bogut’s game. He’s got a very good start and he’s definitely gonna be a star. His big problem is that he’s been dealing with that elbow injury. But he is a star to be reckoned with [and] will be a star for some time.”
Sounds innocent enough, right? Jordan didn’t say he talks to Bogut everyday. He didn’t suggest that Bogut should go play in a larger market or, better yet, come and play in Charlotte. He really didn’t do anything more than use Bogut as an example for a point he was trying to make about small market teams. Yet, Jordan was fined $100,000—yes, $100K—because of the comments he made.
That seems a bit excessive to us. Not because we think MJ deserves a pass or that he’s above the law—though, for the record, we do think that—but because, by fining MJ $100,000, the NBA has actually brought more attention to the issue of owners and players not interacting than they would have if they simply ignored MJ’s comments. Had they not fined him, it’s unlikely that anyone would have recognized that MJ had spoken out about Bogut. It would have been a story that disappeared from the blogs in a day or two. Now? Well, now it’s a national story that highlights the fact that the NBA is still in shambles because of the lockout. Quite simply, it’s bad PR and it’s bad for business.
I’m not implying that MJ didn’t deserve to be fined or punished for doing what he did. But the NBA would have been better off fining MJ at the end of the lockout, if they chose to do it. It’d help the NBA prevent negative press, while still showing that Stern rules the NBA with an iron fist. They also probably didn’t need to fine MJ $100K for simply speaking out about an issue that involves the NBA as a whole more than it does any individual player. A smaller fine would have done the trick and sent a message to other owners, and it wouldn’t have caused so much backlash against the league.
Unfortunately, Stern continues to play hard ball with both the players and the owners. Instead, we propose he plays hard ball in the negotiating room and get this lockout finished. Because while he’s sitting around handing out fines, the NBA is losing valuable time and making itself look petty in the process.
As I said at the beginning, I’m sure Michael Jordan can find $100,000 in the cushions of his couch. But this isn’t about the money. It’s about the NBA trying to make a point by going overboard and fining the NBA’s golden child a small fortune. And in this instance, the punishment definitely does not fit the crime. I hope the NBA realizes that before they think about doing it again.