In a not-so-subtle response to Lakers star LeBron James’ comments regarding his desire to play with the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, the NBA reportedly sent a memo to all teams reminding them of the league’s anti-tampering rules.
Earlier in December, James told ESPN that playing with the Pelicans’ five-time All-Star Davis would be “amazing” and “incredible” – seemingly harmless praise – but the grey area lies in the fact that Davis is under contract through the 2019-2020 season.
Thus, the anti-tampering memo.
“Employment contracts are to be respected and conduct that interferes with contractual employment relationships is prohibited,” the reminder reads, according to ESPN.
“This principle is particularly important in today’s media environment, where any actions or comments relating to potential player movement receive immediate and widespread public attention. Teams should be entitled to focus their efforts on the competition this season with the players they have under contract, without having to divert attention or resources to conduct or speculation regarding the potential destinations of those players in future seasons once their contracts expire.”
The memo further clarified that even if an action, in isolation, does not constitute tampering, a pattern of repeated behavior could receive a sanction.
“Teams should be aware that the scope of the anti-tampering rule is broad, and its application in any given case is based on all facts and circumstances,” the memo said. “Accordingly, conduct that doesn’t violate the rule in any single instance may nevertheless constitute a violation if it becomes repeated or part of a broader collection of improper actions.”
“Teams should therefore refrain from any conduct — including public statements — that could be viewed as targeting or expressing interest in another team’s player.”
James’ comments reportedly sparked outrage from small-market GMs who were concerned that the league, by not enforcing tampering rules, implicitly endorsed James’ conduct. Adding to the tampering case is that James and Davis share the same agent: Rich Paul of Klutch Sports.
Since the response to his initial Davis comments, James has defended himself, saying that he “plays by the rules,” and would admit to wanting to play with any other great player, simply because they are great.
Is that tampering? Apparently not officially – but it’s too close for the rest of the NBA’s comfort.
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