Recently, Warriors’ forward Stephen Jackson publicly requested a trade to Cleveland, New York, or any of the Texas teams. For his concerns about the future of his career, the NBA obliged and handed out a $25,000 fine.
Okay, I am not a big fan of this fine, for a multitude of reasons. Now, I am not foolish or naive enough to believe that the NBA as a corporation would adhere to the first amendment rights granted to Americans like Stephen Jackson and not punish him for speaking his mind. I get that; I understand that the NBA doesn’t want dissent among the ranks, which is the basis for the fine levied against Jackson.
However, I cannot envision a scenario where this trade request could in some way hamper the NBA to the point that a $25,000 fine was necessary. The practice of negotiating through the media is one of tenure and expertise. Public trade demands are fairly frequent, to the point that they are no longer surprising when they occur. Kobe Bryant demanded a trade a few years back, same with Shaquille O’Neal, and many others. And a point can be made that Ron Artest was fined when he requested a trade.
Again, why wasn’t Kobe or Shaq penalized, yet the much-maligned Artest was when they did the exact same thing? Is it a matter of perception, where the perceived troublemakers are seen as distractions, while the beloved players get a free pass because they sell tickets? I don’t see how that is justifiable, and I’m not really in favor of fining players because they are honest about their situation.
The media hammers players for not showing their true selves and lying to the media concerning possible player movement (LeBron playing coy about his impending free agency), yet when a player shows his true colors and voices displeasure, the league imposes its authority. Basically, something has to change.
To touch on a point made earlier, I am not saying the NBA isn’t within its rights to impose financial penalties on troublesome players. I am saying that a bit of discretion would be apropos when it comes to matters like these that don’t compromise the integrity of the play. If you want to know where a stiff penalty may be in order, a coach questioning the integrity of the referees after a game would warrant some reaction. They (coaches like Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, and Stan Van Gundy) have made it a routine to criticize the referees after a tough loss.
Another point that I would like to make is that Jackson did what most fans want. He wants to be traded because he feels that his chances of winning would be better if he were to be traded to a contender instead of sticking around with Golden State. It is the exact opposite of what made Larry Hughes public enemy #1 after his stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers when he expressed his priorities (those being individual success before team success).
Beyond that, Jackson has apparently patched things up with Warriors management and coach Don Nelson, who said that Jackson was still to be the captain of the Warriors. So, a seemingly long time after the incident happened, and after the wounds had healed, the NBA decides that now was the proper time to levy the fine. Maybe it is just the timing that has me so out of whack, plus the whole idea of restricting what a person can say about his future.
I also think it just speaks to the overall conception, or misconception, about Stephen Jackson. Because of his involvement in the brawl at Auburn Hills, he has had this negative aura about him. People perceive him to be a bad guy, so all of his actions are interpreted through that scope.
Jackson has always been the consummate team player, willing to play his role no matter what it is. Perhaps you have forgotten or are unaware, he won a championship with the Spurs back in the day, playing a critical role on that team. In Indiana, he was only supporting his teammate, the ever complex Ron Artest, by running into the stands and unloading a couple of haymakers across the side of the rival fan’s faces.
Does he make bad decisions sometimes? Absolutely he does, which are all fair to criticize. But his voicing of complaints about his situation seems like it should be beyond the realm of David Stern and the rest of the NBA higher ups.