You have probably heard by now that the Miami Heat are not a very popular team, especially among many media members. One of those people is Esquire writer Scott Raab, a Cleveland native who has been covering the team for the magazine's website and has plans to write a book on LeBron James(notes) and the Heat.
In his latest missive, Raab dropped a bomb of surprising news:
At 4:01 P.M. yesterday, I get this e-mail from Tim Donovan, head of media relations for the Miami Heat:
"Scott: You are no longer welcome at our building and will not be credentialed moving forward. Tim"
At first glance, this seems like a massive overreaction. Plenty of writers have criticized James and the Heat throughout the last few months, including Yahoo! Sports' own Adrian Wojnarowski. Yet while Raab's not alone, few can match the rancor he's directed at James since he left the Cavs. Andrew Sharp has collected a number of his Tweets at SB Nation, and here's just a taste:
But they haven't quit. Look in the mirror, [expletive]. You're a [expletive] loser and always will be. RT @KingJames Sanchez is wearing them down
Very nice, Scott, and very professional. Raab is a massive sports fan who obviously doesn't care much about offending people -- the man has a tattoo of massively racist Indians mascot Chief Wahoo on his arm, after all -- but at some point "sports analysis" becomes "barely veiled and destructive hatred." The Heat have the right to keep Raab out of their arena, of course, and the NBA seems to support their decision. According to an interview with Waiting for Next Year, Raab has been denied a league-wide press credential by the head office.
Still, there seems something wrong with denying press credentials to a writer from a national magazine based on some especially heavy criticism. Esquire isn't a major sports magazine, so the Heat don't depend on their coverage for publicity, but they're also a major publication with a great reputation, no matter the quality of Raab's columns. They deserve some respect, even if they've given the Heat none in return.
Banning Raab is a weird reaction by the Heat, but they also have an unprecedented situation with the national media. Most NBA teams do whatever possible to get wide coverage, good or bad. The Heat get so much attention, though, that they can ultimately afford to pick and choose which outlets cover them on a regular basis.
It's true that there's no such thing as bad publicity, but good press remains preferable. Losing Esquire won't make the Heat any less of a story among other outlets. While this move sets a bad precedent for the future, it's also partially the media's own fault. Without wall-to-wall coverage from every possible source, the decision to ban Raab wouldn't be possible.