Hey, remember when Drake took the opportunity to ask the mass of Torontonians assembled at his recent OVO Fest concert to show some love for fellow attendee and reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant?
HEAD'S UP: The final two seconds of this clip feature a well-amplified swear word. Listener discretion is advised.
"Before we leave, I just want to show one of my brothers something," the multiplatinum-selling recording artist said. "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."
Cue rapturous (raptorous?) applause and, eventually, a "KD" chant.
It was a neat moment, but it made me wonder whether the NBA would be cool with the Toronto Raptors' "global brand ambassador" making what might be considered a pitch for the services of a player who's under contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder through the end of the 2015-16 season:
Does Drake's ambassadorial affiliation with the Raptors technically make him a team official? And if he is technically a team official, would exhorting an amphitheater full of people to "let [Durant] know what would happen" if he came to Toronto constitute an act of tampering, defined in Larry Coon's CBA FAQ as "when a player or team directly or indirectly entices, induces or persuades anybody (player, general manager, etc.) who is under contract with another team in order to negotiate for their services?"
We got our answer on Monday: No, the NBA's not cool with it.
The first rumblings came from ESPN.com's Marc Stein:
Hearing Raptors fined $25,000 for comments Drake made at a concert about Kevin Durant that were seen as violation of anti-tampering rules— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 11, 2014
... and an NBA spokesman confirmed the fine to The Associated Press on Monday evening. That's a bummer; $25,000 seems like an awful steep price to pay for just wanting to show one of your brothers something. (Especially considering the generally passive nature of just asking a bunch of people if they like said brother.)
It's not yet clear whether another team lodged a complaint against the Raptors following the publication of the video featuring Drake's comments or if the disciplinarians in the league office decided to take it upon themselves to rap the Raps' on the wrist. Tampering punishments typically stem from the former, but could also result from the latter. I've reached out to an NBA spokesman seeking clarification and comment, and will update this post if/when it comes.
What does seem clear, though, is that while he's not a full-time salaried employee and member of the Raptors' front office, Drake's now officially not allowed to talk about how cool it would be if players under contract with other teams played for the Raptors instead, lest the team face a (pretty modest, all things considered) fine for its ambassador overstepping his bounds. Whether that actually dissuades Drake from trying to leverage his relationships with multiple NBA players into advantageous situations for the hometown team remains to be seen — as ESPN Insider's Kevin Pelton notes, the punishment in this case seems to do a lot more to raise awareness of the "pitch" to Durant than the pitch itself, and maybe there's no such thing as bad PR if you can afford the fine.
If Tim Leiweke and company don't want to drop 25 grand every time the Raptors' ambassador just wants to show his brother something, though, Drizzy should probably start looking to his own back catalog for a simple rule of thumb when he feels the urge to name-check already signed players: Don't do it. Please don't do it.
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