The NBA has again been accused of double standards and special treatment for tequila party-attending superstar LeBron James, after Dallas Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis was fined $50,000 for going to a strip club.
Last week, a furor was caused when James attended a promotional shindig with fellow A-list celebrities such as Drake and Black Panther actor Michael B. Jordan, yet was not penalized as “the nature of the event didn’t rise to a threat level of virus spread,” the league confirmed.
Then set to face his former Phoenix Suns in their now-ongoing play off series with the LA Lakers, the legendary Charles Barkley predicted that James would receive little to no punishment as calls were made by angry fans for him to be reprimanded.
“Let me tell you something,” Barkley said to Yahoo, before covering himself by adding he “loved” current NBA commission Adam Silver and David Stern, Silver’s late predecessor.
BREAKING: Lakers were notified by the NBA that LeBron James violated NBA’s health & safety protocols by attending an event for his tequila brand with Drake the day before the play-in game.LeBron on if he got the COVID-19 vaccine or not: “It’s not a big deal.” pic.twitter.com/1qvojtn6Za
— NBA Buzz (@OfficialNBABuzz) May 22, 2021
“The NBA ain’t got the balls to suspend LeBron James. If it was a nobody, they would put him in health and safety protocols,” Barkley continued.
“Ain’t no f*cking way LeBron James is going to be sat out because of health and safety protocols.
“When I read that, I just started laughing. LeBron James is playing Sunday. Guaranteed,” he signed off, and was proven right when James played in a 99-90 win for the Suns.
Warning: video contains swearing
On Monday, the league answered to the accusations of double standards when its spokesman Mike Bass released a statement.
“To clarify any remaining misconception, LeBron James briefly attended an outdoor event last week where participants were required to be vaccinated or return a negative test result,” it started.
“Under these circumstances and in consultation with medical experts, it was determined that his attendance did not create risks related to the spread of Covid-19 and therefore no quarantine was necessary.”
Without providing examples, Bass also claimed that some of James’ fellow players have evaded punishment like him in the past by saying: “Over the course of this season, there have been numerous similar violations of the league’s Health and Safety Protocols, which were addressed with the players’ team in a similar fashion.”
NBA issued statement earlier from Chief Communications Offer Mike Bass ‘to clarify any remaining misconception’ over LeBron James’ breach of the league’s Health and Safety protocols last week and why the breach didn’t result in a mandatory quarantine for James. Full statement: pic.twitter.com/r0WtsBFPf3
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) May 25, 2021
Lastly, it was also confirmed that NBA athletes who have already had their Covid vaccine may participate in outdoor events if meeting sponsorship commitments like Lebron did at the tequila event – though he continues not to confirm he has received the shot.
“Under current NBA rules, vaccinated players are permitted to engage in outside activities including their individual commercial arrangements such as sponsor appearances or ad shoots,” it said.
But then in an apparent demonstration of its hypocrisy, the championship made an example of Porzingis when fining him $50,000 for visiting a gentleman’s club in Los Angeles on Sunday, reported ESPN, and violating its protocol that prohibits players from enjoying bars, night clubs and lounges.
“While we understand the inclination to compare this incident to protocol violations by other players, including LeBron James, those facts are very different,” the league wrote to The Athletic in response to the latest criticism.
“LeBron briefly attended an outdoor event related to an individual commercial activity where everyone was either required to be vaccinated or return a negative Covid test.”
“The league reviews each potential protocol violation on a case-by-case basis, and determines quarantines and imposes discipline based on the individual facts and circumstances of each matter,” it finished.
When reached for comment on difference between Porzingis-LeBron James‘ situation, NBA spokesman Mike Bass: “While we understand the inclination to compare this incident to protocol violations by other players, including LeBron James, those facts are very different.” Statement: pic.twitter.com/MxbeDkVQz4
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 25, 2021
Fans were quick to point out the difference in treatment on social media by peppering Twitter with a series of memes and angry posts.
“The NBA is so mad at LeBron that they decided to fine Porzingis,” remarked one onlooker.
“So Porzingis gets fined and LeBron keeps his cash? Got it,” highlighted another.
Yet as the 26-year-old has already received his vaccine, Porzingis will not be made to miss any of his team’s playoff series with the Clippers, as his being at the strip club “did not create risks related to the spread of Covid-19”.
The Latvian featured in Game 1 last night, and scored 20 points as the Mavs beat their hosts 127-121 at the Staples Center to take a 2-0 series lead.
Meanwhile in Arizona, a still-unpunished LeBron put 23 points up on the board as the Lakers won 109-102 and tied the best of seven clash 1-1.