Philadelphia 76ers: Fans must change perspective on players, agents, owners

Jimmy Butler | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Jimmy Butler | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The opinions of sports fans — and sometimes Philadelphia 76ers fans — are often skewed and they generally side with the folks working behind the scenes, not the actual players they see on the television or at the venue.

Professional sports have been traditionally based upon the players serving as puppets in the industry.

Yes, puppets. The players are the products sold by the billionaire owners to the paying customers. The owners and other front office members call the shots and we have grown accustomed to that model of business.

But that does not make much sense. In the entertainment industry, the performers are the most valuable figures by an astronomically large margin. Everyone who has ever purchased tickets to a Cleveland Cavaliers game from 2003-2018 anticipated seeing LeBron James or Kyrie Irving. Not Dan Gilbert or David Griffin.

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This example has equivalences for every team.

That brings us to the idea of roster transactions. Trades and free agency. They both put on display the most baffling hypocrisy and nonsensical fan perspectives.

We watch a team’s front office either move on from or acquire a player and we call it business. We praise them for putting the team’s best interests first. But don’t you dare feel sorry for a player who has to make a sudden location change for his job, he makes millions! So as a result, you should side with the owners… who make a thousand times more.

Now turn the situation around. Let’s look at the free agents who made their career changes in pursuit of better money, more happiness, and a greater chance to win. How dare they improve the quality of their lives? Nothing but selfishness and a lack of loyalty!

See how ridiculous that sounds? Everybody wants the players to remain put while passing on promising opportunities. But when the front offices do it, we praise them.

The Raptors traded fan-favorite DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard. That resulted in a championship. General manager Masai Ujiri has been the hero for pulling this one off. As he should be.

If DeMar had left in free agency a few years ago when he was given the chance, he would be crucified by many fans on social media for joining a better team in another city.

It begs the question yet again, why do fans side with the billionaire owners as opposed to the millionaire players who should be the ones running the show?

It’s their league. It’s their stage.

The latest example just came into fruition. Back in January, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul and client Anthony Davis announced their wish to be traded out of New Orleans, preferably to the Lakers.

The vitriol was toxic. The even-keeled, low-laying superstar was quickly deemed a spoiled brat and a diva. Rich Paul was painted as the NBA villain. All because of a publicly addressed desire to take Davis’ career elsewhere.

It is hypocrisy. Competitive sports cannot be compared to the “normal” person’s job,  that is fair, but the idea that someone must remain loyal to their company is silly. Ask a local chef if he would work at a new restaurant if it included greater benefits, more competent management, better counterparts, and a happier experience overall.

And all we heard was, “Boohoo you make millions to bounce a basketball, man up” and a mix of other emotional, insensitive backlash remarks. Like Davis was a criminal for realizing he deserved better, and wanting it.

Two days after the Raptors captured their first title, the news broke. The Lakers and Pelicans agreed to a trade. Davis was going to Los Angeles. Rich Paul got his client where he wanted.

We can tie this into the Philadelphia 76ers, too. The big question of their offseason is whether or not they will be able to bring Jimmy Butler back. As much as Sixers Nation would love him back, he might feel differently.

If Butler feels that his quality of life on and off the court is better in Los Angeles or Brooklyn, then how can we fault him for that?

It would sting. Running it back would see a new obstacle without their closer, their two-way wing. For basketball reasons alone, most people would agree that Philadelphia is the best fit. The team would not have made it to Toronto without him, let alone the final seconds of a road Game 7.

But we should always stress that athletes are humans. We should not going to berate a player for choosing a path that does not best suit our personal interests.

That seems illogical and impossible to many, and maybe Philadelphia is not the place for someone to preach that message. The fans have forever been some of the most passionate in the land. That is meant as a compliment.

Anyone could have gone on Twitter in July 2016 to see vulgarities directed toward Kevin Durant for joining the Warriors. It was irrationally extreme and borderline creepy. God forbid he saw a desirable, positive work environment that trumps whatever emptiness he was feeling in Oklahoma City. It doesn’t matter how we feel about what it meant for the competitive nature of basketball, this is about the man’s livelihood.

It will forever be appalling that professional sports serves as the only field where the employees are supposed to take less money and/or take a lower quality of life unless they want their reputation to suffer. And when they don’t do that, we call them spoiled and side with the billionaires.

It will forever be appalling that nobody bats an eye when an organization moves on from a player. Nobody crucified Danny Ainge for moving Isaiah Thomas after the magic he brought to Boston. And they shouldn’t have.

Just like they shouldn’t chastise Kyrie Irving if he moves on with his life.

What sports fans all across the board need to work on is drawing that line between fandom and humanity. Some might interpret that as a total opposition to what American sports have been since they were first integrated in our culture.

When a player who left your team comes back into your arena fora road game, boo the s*** out of him all you want.

Next. Grading a poor 2019 NBA Draft performance. dark

But don’t run to Twitter calling him a weak, spoiled diva. And don’t worry about the financial “inconveniences” of your team’s billionaire owner.