This week has seen a surprising amount of news around actor/podcaster/sometimes director and sideline reporter Michael Rapaport, who had his long-running defamation claims against former employer Barstool Sports dismissed this week (however, his breach of contract claims are moving forward), then shared Instagram direct messages from Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant (in response to public criticisms of Durant Rapaport tweeted in December) that featured Durant using homophobic and misogynistic language towards Rapaport and his wife. Durant apologized for the language he used to Rapaport Wednesday night, but that didn’t end this, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting Friday that the NBA has now fined Durant:
NBA is fining Kevin Durant $50,000 for social exchange with actor, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 2, 2021
It seems pretty logical for the NBA to issue this fine. Yes, while these comments from Durant were only originally intended for Rapaport rather than private consumption, the language used here was quite terrible. And players should be aware that direct messages they send can have a way of becoming public. And that’s perhaps especially true when it comes to sending those messages to someone like Rapaport, who has shown quite a willingness to get in public fights with just about anyone.
But beyond that, having a player like Durant represent the league this way even privately is bad for the league’s image. And that’s why CBAs incorporate provisions to punish athletes for problematic off-the-field behavior. Earlier this year, Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard’s antisemetic slur on Twitch saw him hit with a similar fine, although that one also included an indefinite suspension from team activities (Leonard was later traded to Oklahoma City, who declined to have him actually report and promptly released him; his basketball future is very much up in the air). It doesn’t look like punishment on that level is coming for Durant, but it is certainly notable that he also picked up a fine here. And maybe this will lead him to return to his burner accounts.