NBA All-Star and three-time champion Draymond Green has had enough of the double standards. Always an outspoken voice in the league, Green took his postgame press conference on Monday night in order to address issues regarding the treatment of players. Particularly surrounding the treatment of players demanding trades versus teams that force trades, using the issue as an example of double standards in the league. The Andre Drummond news was the main example that Green gave.
Before the Drummond news, there was the James Harden saga. Harden looked out of shape and was playing poorly this season while demanding to be traded from Houston. Criticism flew at The Beard. Accusations of being soft or ring chasing came from fans and media alike. Harden was eventually traded to the Nets. Adam Clanton, a Houston sports talk radio host, went on Twitter referring to Harden as a “bitch”. Clanton admitted in a later tweet that he “defended” Harden 24/7 for a long time…so that makes it okay to call another man an expletive because of a business decision. Now, Harden is going to be fine. I do not think Clanton’s tweets have shaken his mental state. But this is part of the point Draymond made on Monday night.
— Jason Dumas (@JDumasReports) February 16, 2021
So you have the Harden situation, a player demanding a trade and obviously tanking his performances to speed up the process. Media and fans swarm to players who demand trades, and as Green points out in his rant, call them cancers, bad locker room influence, bad attitude, etc. This is a form of striking. Harden withheld his labor power to get what he wanted out of his employer. Workers do this around the country for better wages, hours, benefits, etc.
These same criticisms are never brought up against teams who decide to publicly announce they are marketing their players to other teams. The most recent example comes from the Drummond, Cavaliers saga. Over the weekend Drummond was informed he would not be playing in any more games for the Cavs while they find a suitable trade. The idea is to protect their trade “asset” from injury so they don’t lose value on him. Blake Griffin was recently benched by the Pistons for the same reasons.
Green pointed out how embarrassing it was for Drummond, who has put in hours of work and labor in order to contribute 14.6 points and 13.5 rebounds a game. Then one game he is told to change into street clothes and he isn’t playing? He has to just show up every game and sit on the bench? He isn’t allowed to complain about the treatment or where he as a player wants to go or he gets fined or worse can’t find a new destination? This has been obvious for quite some time in the league. Anthony Davis was fined $100K for publicly stating he wanted out of New Orleans. Magic Johnson was fined many times in his short run at GM for the Lakers regarding comments on various players. DeMarcus Cousins was told via reporters at the 2017 All-Star Game when he was traded from Sacramento to NOLA. Were these GMs ever called a bitch by the Clanton’s of the world? No.
Green also touched on Kyrie Irving and his issues. Irving missed a number of games this season while taking time off for his mental health. Although Green did not make this point, I will. When Kevin Love spoke out about mental health issues he dealt with personally what did the NBA do? They made K-Love the face of a new NBA movement surrounded around mental health awareness. He was embraced and listened to. As he should have been! But for Kyrie? A Black man living in America talks about how social and political issues are affecting his mental health and has to APOLOGIZE for it to fans and his team. The media treats him as a nutcase. He just doesn’t love the game. He doesn’t want to be there. He has other priorities. He’s too weird. Whatever it is, it is not a coincidence that Love, a white man, has been given priority and attention above Irving, a Black man.
Draymond’s words pointed out issues that have clearly been on his mind and the mind of other players as well. It also doesn’t stop at the NBA. There is a larger issue surrounding athletes, especially college and professional, that needs to be talked about. Even kids in college, like Jalen Johnson of Duke, are being called quitters and other names by grown men on Twitter and in the media. There is criticism and then there is getting personally offended by a decision that has no bearing on your life. Not just by fans but by serious college basketball accounts with tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of followers. It is pathetic.
Ball Durham, a Fansided Duke site called the choice by Johnson “cowardly”.
Jalen Johnson quit on Duke. There’s no debate.
But his cowardly decision is best for the Blue Devils throughout the remainder of the season. https://t.co/fqRh09h6es
— Ball Durham (@Ball_Durham) February 16, 2021
Jon Rothstein said “‘Opting Out’ with three weeks left in the regular season isn’t opting out. It’s quitting.”
“Opting Out” with three weeks left in the regular season isn’t opting out.
It’s quitting. https://t.co/XFU2E1avNR
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 15, 2021
Dan Dakich, always one ready to fire a bad take, mocked how the media (YOU ARE THE MEDIA TOO DAN) will call Johnson “NOBLE” and talk about how he has been “exploited”.
Wait For It….the college basketball media will figure out a way to tell us Jalen Johnson quitting Duke was because of him being “exploited”.
Also how “NOBLE” it was to quit with 3 weeks left and how he should still be apart of the @DukeMBB “Brotherhood”
— Dan Dakich (@dandakich) February 16, 2021
Well, guess what, Dakich he was exploited! As are every college basketball and football player along with, yes, professional NBA and NFL players as well. How are they exploited? Like we all are, by a vicious system of capitalism that never gives you the full value of your labor. Whether you play in the MEAC or if you are Steph Curry with a supermax contract, some nameless 70-year-old white man is getting his cut of YOUR revenue without having to do so much as dribble a ball or do anything but exist. A non-producer.
In fact media like Dan get to just spout off about other humans with zero repercussions. Professionalism is not pinned on them as it is with Black athletes. Johnson is by extension a “coworker” of Dakich. His professional existence has entirely hinged on the bodies of young men, mostly Black young men. Whether he was coaching or on the sideline announcing their games, Dan owes every house, car, vacation, his kid’s school clothes every year, and any other thing that has come his way to the labor power of predominantly young, Black men’s bodies. But he finds the audacity to mock these players when they make a business decision.
Athletes are workers. They use their labor power and their skills, like any other worker would, to generate revenue in order to get paid. College athletes have long been told that tuition, room and board, and experiences were enough to substitute pay. While teams make players play in the middle of a global pandemic, college athletes are more like professional athletes now than ever. Nothing but school and sport. No girls, no parties, no late-night college shenanigans. The lie that is amateurism strips players (workers) of their labor value and funnels it to executives, athletic departments, administrations, that do little but sit in offices and look over the overwhelmingly Black bodies that generate their income and have the audacity to tell the PLAYERS they should be thankful for what they have been given. While telling these same players they can’t make money off of their own name and image.
These attacks are coming from the media who do not have to leave their family during this pandemic. They didn’t have to go to practices and report to campus over the summer. They aren’t writing these articles and hot takes for no damn room and board or experiences. Not being told where you can and can’t go and being literally tracked with new technology and gear. Most of the media wasn’t sitting in the NBA Bubble for weeks on end without seeing their loved ones. They sure didn’t go through what the players did in the Bubble just to turn around in roughly two months to start a brand new season traveling across the country like there isn’t a pandemic raging. A season that is only still going on because the NBA stays flexible on rules.
Now, due to the large media attention athletes get in our country, they are viewed through a different lens. Almost as if they are superhuman when in fact they are anything but. If you see these players go on strike or demand trades and say “Well I can’t just demand things from my boss,” or “I wish I could just walk off my job,” you don’t understand the power of your own labor. The players’ unions of the NBA and other pro sports leagues are very strong and exercise their influence and power quite a bit. Maybe if you tried to organize with your fellow workers you too could go on strike and demand better conditions at work.
There is nothing that certain sports media and fans hate more than a player taking their destiny into their own hands and making a business or life decision for themselves. When their organization makes that decision, however, they embrace it. GMs and front office execs get to fail and fail continuously from organization to organization and keep getting hired. Many times failing upwards into better jobs than they had before. If an executive could generate as much enthusiasm and excitement for a team as Jeremy Lin did during his Linsanity era they’d have a job for life. But a player with a perceived bad attitude? Now that is just unbecoming of a professional.
The organizations are well within their rights to do what they are doing. Green’s point is that no player is afforded the same opportunity. You are not allowed to comment, make an opinion, or speak your mind unless you want to face fines, criticism, and even being blacklisted at times. The disconnect between the “mainstream” sports media and the players’ opinions on what Draymond had to say is vast. On SportsCenter, the topic was discussed less than who will play QB for the 49ers next season, with the anchors and daytime shows laughing off the concerns that Green brought up. Seemingly, purposefully ignoring the main points of the argument in order to make it seem like he was complaining about trades in general.
There is a set of rules for ownership and team execs. Then there is a set of rules for the players. The workers. They have a right to be pissed about their treatment and to see media that should be more progressive on workers and player issues brush it off is disheartening. Alas, the media seems intent on acting like this is a sit then trade type issue or trades in general. Humans react and have emotions. Players are expected to deal with heckling fans, failing execs who never played outside of their backyard, crotchety media who see them as workhorses rather than people, and a myriad of other issues on top of doing their jobs.
These players are adults. They aren’t dumb. They understand the business that comes with the NBA. You can be traded at a moment’s notice. But to expect players to sit on the sideline without comment while they waste away on bad teams with bad leadership and not demand something is done? That is asking them to not be human. They are not allowed to have feelings or at best you can have those feelings but not publicly. It is ridiculous that a player can express their frustration with an organization and be met with a fine instead of a conversation among adults. Players are expected to deal with criticism without flinching while organizations and front offices refuse to acknowledge their own faults.
Jared Dudley, Kendrick Perkins, and others celebrated the comments made by Green. As they should. It was an overwhelming display of solidarity for his fellow workers and it would be good for workers everywhere to listen to what he said. A direct challenge to ownership’s treatment of their workers is what was laid out in the almost 3-minute statement. The NBA players showed just how much power they had when they shut down the NBA Bubble momentarily in 2020 following the shooting of Jacob Blake. Player’s rights are worker’s rights.
The only thing left to say is what Draymond said himself to finish Monday night’s lesson.
“At some point, the players must be respected…” -Draymond Green