It’s part of the standard NBA player contract: Players have to be available and speak to the media. There are limitations and restrictions, but they have to speak.
Kyrie Irving chose not to make himself available during media week, he instead released a bland statement.
Thursday, the NBA fined him and the Nets $25,000 each for their actions.
Financially it’s just a slap on the wrist to the team and Irving; it’s more about the point made.
Irving’s history with the media is filled with friction, in part because he’s said some ridiculous things, in part because he’s had some rough spots in his career and media have called him out for it, and in part he’s been unfairly called out for raising legitimate questions (like whether the NBA should have done the bubble restart — it was very fair to ask that).
People are trying to understand Irving, and he’s a smart guy, but one who marches to his own tune. Irving doesn’t fit neatly into our archetypal box for athletes. That’s a good thing, but it can lead to feeling misunderstood. It can lead to backlash because everyone different in this society gets some backlash.
Superstar players like Irving draw a lot of media attention — some serious, some of it frivolous — and there are always people on social media, and sometimes media members themselves, trying to tear players down. That leaves players frustrated, they can’t control what is said or what starts trending, and players can feel fans fail to understand them because of how the media chooses to portray them. So they stick to cliches. Or, release a statement.
Of course, it’s never that simple or clear.
Still, talking to the media is part of Irving’s job — he’s not just getting paid for what he does on the court, he is a brand that helps fill seats and get people to turn on their televisions. For that, Irving is incredibly well compensated. He chose to play in New York, the brightest media spotlight in the nation, everything that he loves or frustrates him about the media will be turned up to 11 in that environment.
Most players don’t enjoy talking to the media, answering questions they feel are simplistic or not about the game at all. It’s understandable. But we all have parts of our jobs we have to do even though we don’t like it. Sometimes you just have to eat your vegetables. If not, you pay a fine.