Never let it be said that the NBA isn't run by a bunch of dour authoritarians who hate rap music and Canadians. Taking a page out of the NFL's overly punitive playbook, yesterday the NBA decided that Drake, the singing man from the Canadian teen show who is in that weird Sprite commercial, violated the league's anti-tampering rules and fined the Raptors $25,000. Excellent work, Drake.
Rewinding a bit: Drake is technically an employee of the Raptors because he serves as the team's "global ambassador." Whatever that means. The Raptors get some cachet from being connected to a very famous celebrity and are seen as less lame; Drake gets to do fun things on TV from time to time. It's a real win-win.
But, since Drake is technically more than just a fan, he can't go around saying off-the-cuff things, especially during very off-the-cuff moments like, say, between songs at a concert in Toronto. But that's exactly what he went and did: Last week, at the OVO Fest, Drake mentioned that Kevin Durant—who, it's important to note, is under contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder through the 2015-2016 season—was in attendance. At one point or another, Drake continued, saying:
"You know, my brother Kevin Durant was kind enough to come to the show tonight and watch us. I just want him to see what would happen if he came to play in Toronto. Let him know what would happen."
This apparently led to the crowd losing its collective mind and giving an ovation to Durant. The NBA saw this as Drake publicly recruiting Durant, which is frowned upon, and fined the Raptors $25,000.
Ignoring the fact that what Drake said barely qualifies as a coherent statement, let alone a recruiting pitch, the NBA is fining a team real money for things that a fake employee—albeit one with a very high Q rating—said while onstage. Is the league aware of how crowds at concerts act? They'll routinely cheer and whoop at any mention of their city or a popular celebrity. Drake, by all accounts a capable showman, knows this and was simply trying to get the crowd amped before he played "Worst Behavior."
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment owns the Raptors. It's a huge company that can laugh off a $25,000 fine, but more than the money, what's annoying is that it's a waste of the NBA's time and a weirdly harsh penalty. The NBA fines players $5,000 for a flopping; in what universe is Drake riling up a crowd at a music festival five times as bad as flopping? The league fined Doc Rivers and Paul George the amount during the playoffs for criticizing referees and a PA announcer for tweeting about refs. This is absurd.
The NFL gets a lot of criticism for suspending players at the drop of a hat and handing down seemingly arbitrary punishments. The NBA's reprimands usually have a lower profile—the league quietly announces fines in press releases and goes about its business. Getting a bunch of headlines after fining a team for something Drake—Drake!—said is not a step in the right direction. The NBA wants to be more like the NFL, but it shouldn't copy football's approach to discipline.
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