Jackie MacMullan joined The Ringer podcast network late last year. This week, she and Bill Simmons appeared on The Ryen Russillo Podcast to discuss the James Harden trade to the Brooklyn Nets. During the show, MacMullan shared a story about a conversation she once had with Kyrie Irving in which she argued that NBA players were "property." This was meant to be an example of why Kyrie doesn't get it.
Even if MacMullan was trying to explain her perspective on the realities of the NBA system, it comes off as problematic and incredibly biased towards management to say it that way. I'm sure there are no shortage of Kyrie stories. How does this one become the breakout, polished anecdote to use on a podcast to make a point about how he doesn't get it? It is just surprising to hear something like this come from such a respected journalist.
No matter what her point is, how do you hear a black athlete say, "We're not property" and respond with the counter-argument, "Yeah you are, dude." Does MacMullan consider herself the property of The Ringer right now? There have, after all, been networks who traded talent. Does she consider Brad Stevens the property of the Boston Celtics? The team could trade him if they wanted. This seems so far off-base that it's no wonder she described this conversation with Kyrie as an "argument."
Professional athletes are human employees. Kyrie Irving sure proved her argument moot when he walked away from the Nets last week. If he were property, he wouldn't have missed a game. Property can't walk away. Athletes just happen to be employed in a specific system where they can be traded like assets because all teams are theoretically working together to be competitive and survive as part of a collective. I know I didn't say that eloquently and there are probably any number of better ways to describe a sports league, but none of them include describing basketball players as "property."