On Monday, the league fined the Toronto Raptors $25,000 for violating the anti-tampering rules, citing an incident at Drake‘s OVO Fest concert when he specifically called out Kevin Durant (who was in the crowd), referenced his free agency in 2016, and made a direct plea for him to come to Toronto. It turns out, the Raptors could have gotten out of the fine, but only if they fired Drake as their global ambassador.
Via Cathal Kelly of The Globe and Mail, the NBA offered to drop the fine but on one condition:
This has risen beyond the level of a spat. It’s an executive knife fight. Raptors officials would not comment on the Drake versus NBA situation. They are plainly loath to make their secret war public.
They also refused to address a key detail – that the NBA offered to drop the tampering fine if the team agreed to strip Drake of his title. The Raptors apparently refused.
As the ambassador of the team, Drake does not receive an actual salary from the Raptors, but he’s crucial to their ongoing transformation into a relevant franchise in the league. Part of that has to do with the Raptors becoming a better team, but Drake’s court-side presence also adds a certain cache to the franchise.
For the Raptors, not accepting the league’s offer to remove Drake from his role makes a lot of sense. He has a rapport with the players, both on the Raptors and around the league. Those relationships matter. Drake is very much part of the brand that the Raptors are pushing, and he is especially important as the 2015-16 All-Star Game will be held in Toronto, where Drake is expected to emcee the event.
In the end, choosing to stand by Drake and paying the fine was a no-brainer for the Raptors brain trust. It’s a smart business and financial decision for the team, and who knows, maybe it will really pay off in 2016 when Durant becomes a free agent. The Raptors should just warn Drake against mentioning it in public.
What do you think?
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