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Draymond takes ESPN to task over misleading headlines, stirring controversy

No matter what you may think of Draymond Green, his concerns have merit. And here is why you should care.

Utah Jazz v Golden State Warriors - Game One
Draymond Green warms up prior to playoff game against the Utah Jazz at Oracle Arena on May 2, 2017.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Draymond Green has been quite outspoken in recent weeks.

From offering up theories about why other NBA players might dislike his teammate, Stephen Curry, to labeling the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk a dirty player, Green has been calling it like he sees it lately.

But his comment du jour, in which he takes ESPN to task for using his words out of context to produce a clickbait headline, is probably savviest of all because ESPN’s response to his complaint proves his very point.

Here is Green’s original statement about competition in the Eastern Conference:

“I thought teams would compete a little harder. I just watched San Antonio-Houston. I like to watch good basketball. When you watch Cleveland play, you’re only watching one side of the good basketball. That’s kind of weak. I like watching a good game, not even necessarily that it’s going to be a close game. I like to watch teams playing good basketball. When you watch them, you watch one team playing good basketball and everybody else do something. I don't know what that something is.”

Context and Nuance walk into a bar ...

Anyone with basic literacy skills understands from the context of the entire statement that Green is referring to the overall quality of the games he has watched as being weak — as in, other teams are not challenging the Cavs the way they should; not as in, the Cavs have an easy ride. This may be a nuanced difference in meaning, but it is a difference just the same — and an important one, at that.

Yet, ESPN spun his statement into a controversy-creating clickbait headline which gives the impression that Green called the Cavs’ Eastern Conference competitors trash: “Draymond Green disappointed Cavs’ opponents going down easily.”

Um, that’s not what he said.

Referring back to his original statement:

Before saying, “That’s kind of weak,” Green applauded Cleveland for being “one side of the good basketball,” which is a clear statement about the Cavs performing well and, therefore, being enjoyable to watch. In no way is that a comment that the Cavs are 8-0 because they had an easy ride — especially considering that the Warriors also are 8-0. In the playoffs, no win is guaranteed and even blowout wins are difficult because it means a team has to be in sync, firing on all cylinders, for a full 48 minutes. Congrats to the Warriors and Cavs for these impressive playoff sweeps!

In an attempt to clarify his statement, Green said:

“But I am a basketball fan, and I know what I want to watch as a basketball fan. So I don’t understand how all these things are always made so controversial ... [I]t’s just ridiculous how everybody is always searching for a controversy.”

Many media outlets have reported that basketball fans are bored out of their minds this playoffs (yet another controversy). Is Draymond Green, the basketball fan, not allowed to be bored just because he also happens to be a player? The man wants to see exciting, competitive ball, dammit ... just like any other hoops fan.

ESPN takes the bait

After clarifying his statement and putting out that media-created fire, Green made an interesting proposition to reporters:

“So there goes your headline of the day. ‘Draymond says Cleveland is playing great basketball.’ Let’s see if that one makes it.”

Of course, there was no way in hell ESPN would run that headline. An opposing player saying something kind about an opposing team? Not sexy enough to generate clicks.

ESPN went with this headline instead: “Draymond Green critical of media, says Cavs ‘playing great basketball’.”

So, in response to Green’s criticism about a clickbait headline he found misleading, ESPN offers up another clickbait headline, which (1) introduces the idea that he is critical of the media, and (2) gives the perception that he is backtracking on his original statement.

Yes, Green was critical of the media, and with good reason. His comments were cherry picked for a stirring headline that would get clicks — all relationship to the truth, be damned.

Second, Green said the Cavs were playing great basketball the first time — referring to Cleveland as “one side of the good basketball.” Here, ESPN is spinning it to appear that Green is backtracking on an original statement when the truth of the matter is that this is what Green said all along. ESPN just failed to report it as such.

Green offered ESPN a perfectly good, truthful headline; ESPN turned it into clickbait, thereby, proving his point.

The cost of doing business

But, who cares? It’s just sports, right?

Wrong.

In the current media climate, everything is reduced to clicks because clicks generate revenue from advertisers. As with many most things, money is the bottom line — by any means necessary. In the sports world, these means have included ESPN laying off hundreds of employees in an effort to shift focus away from the dwindling cable-news industry.

Trends change and companies have to change with them. However, change should never come at the expense of truth or talent. Real sports fan — those who enjoy reading about the nuances of the games, leagues, teams and players they follow, appreciate in-depth, nuanced coverage.

There’s that word again: nuance.

And no writer at ESPN was more adept at examining myriad angles of an issue in linguistically beautiful ways than Ethan Sherwood-Strauss who, sadly, was caught up in the layoffs. It is for this reason that fans are petitioning ESPN to hire him back. Readers know that a provocative headline like the one Green has taken issue with amounts to a pretty, gold-wrapped box adorned with a red bow ... with nothing inside.

By contrast, any provocative or enticing Ethan Sherwood-Strauss headline usually led to an article of riches.

Truth vs. truthiness vs. fake news vs. outright lies

Again, this is still sports, basketball and sports journalism, right? So, who cares?

The problem is that it’s all of journalism. It’s major news outlets reporting provocative tweets by politicians and celebrities as news. It’s the rollback of resources for badly needed investigative journalists at reputable news outlets to do work that serves the public interest.

It’s the turning of events — whether mundane or tragic — into entertainment that is deceptively packaged as news.

No matter what anyone thinks of Draymond Green, there is merit in his comments about the media spin game that warrants thoughtful consideration. And if we’re smart enough, we would ponder the broader implications of how information is reported and the effects of that reportage on society at-large as well as on individual lives.

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