What reporters can study from Kyrie Irving calling them ‘pawns’ — The Undefeated
One cannot be held responsible for responding to the last Kyrie Irving news cycle with a heavily sighed “boy, if he doesn’t …”
The mercury Brooklyn Nets point guard and his employer were fined $ 25,000 each Thursday by the NBA for refusing to speak to the media since training camp began on Dec. 1. Three days later, Irving released a statement that read in part, “Instead of speaking to the media today, I’m making this statement to make sure my message is being delivered correctly. … I am determined to show up for work every day and be ready to have fun, compete, perform and win championships with my teammates and colleagues in the Nets organization.
“My goal this season is to let my work on and off the pitch speak for itself.”
Irving, who didn’t let his play do the talking, posted an obvious response to the fine on social media on Friday:
“I pray we will use the ‘money’ for the marginalized communities in need, especially when we see where our world is now. [I am] here for peace, love and greatness. So stop distracting me and my team and appreciate the art. We move differently here.
“I don’t talk to farmers. My attention is worth more. “
Oh brother Here we go again.
The easy way out for everyone – the media, NBA fans – would be to refer to Kyrie as Kyrie and ignore the substance of what the 28-year-old was saying, to further criticize his inflated ego or laugh at even more inflated hotepery . (Irving also quoted Malcolm X in his Friday statement.) Irving has questioned his reputation repeatedly over the years, from his tumultuous relationship with his teammates at the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics to public headless comments, by whose most controversial were his thoughts on the flatness of the earth.
But, as with most things, this Irving situation is complex.
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On the one hand, Irving has an obligation to speak to the media. Not to get the All Slaves Championship, but the league has a $ 24 billion partnership with ESPN and Turner to broadcast games, and there are guidelines for players to speak to reporters after games and practice. Irving knows this because he is vice president of the National Basketball Players Association. Irving may get angry with reporters and their questions, but the least he can do – the absolute minimum – is to answer some questions for five minutes. (For the uninitiated, media scrums only last about that long.)
Irving makes Beat reporters harder by not answering their questions. Imagine if Irving hadn’t spoken to the media after his 50-point opening game last season marking the one-year anniversary of his grandfather’s death. This career-defining moment loses its luster without Irving’s collaboration. Not to mention that other players would run the risk of not wanting to speak to the media either. Working with the media means Damian Lillard’s “Paul George was sent home by me in the playoffs last year,” or LeBron James asks “bloody respect.” Less media access is not ideal for anyone.
At the same time, media representatives, including myself, have to take a long look at ourselves. Irving didn’t choose to call us “farmers” out of nowhere.
Before the advent of social media and gamer-supported media, journalists had a monopoly on reporting on athletes. If you wanted to find out more about your favorite athletes and teams, or vice versa, if athletes wanted to set the record on something, they needed the local sports reporter. Newspaper columnists were once considered the most influential people in the sport because they helped shape public opinion of this player or coach.
But over the past decade – especially when James said on national television that he would bring his talent to South Beach – things changed. Where once the local and national reporter and maybe a blogger here and there, there is now James ‘INTERRUPTED media platform, Kevin Durant’s Five Ventures and the Derek Jeter-backed Players’ Tribune, which brought the news of Durant’s decision to join, including the Golden State Warriors in 2016. The athletes also have their own social media accounts.
The players realized that they no longer needed the media. And could you blame them? Many of us abused the relative power that we had as news deliverers. We called Durant “Mr. Unreliable. “We turned James into a villain because he no longer wanted to play for Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. We called Irving every four letter word under the sun to question the extent of the earth. Trolls im Internet and arena fans did the same, but we in the media should be better.The line between criticism and pure meanness had long been crossed.
These are the consequences.
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It is easy to dismiss what Irving said because he is the wrong messenger. We – society, not just the media – did the same over the summer when Irving rightly questioned the return of the League, which returned amid the COVID-19 pandemic and protests following the police murder of George Floyd . Since Irving, like millions of others in this country, had not spoken of race and inequality in the past, his opinion that the NBA would be a distraction from the social unrest was suddenly ridiculed. To a black man who plays in a predominantly black sport that is covered by a predominantly white press corps that downplays his commitment to social justice, it should come as no surprise to that same press corps that that black man no longer wants to speak to them.
If the media (reporters, journalists, writers, bloggers, podcasters, analysts, commentators, etc.) want athletes like Irving to get better, then we have to be better too.
If not, it won’t matter whether we are pawns on a chessboard or not. We will find that we are the only ones playing the game.
Martenzie is the Associate Editor for The Undefeated. His favorite cinematic moment is when Django said, “Do you want to see something?”