This weekend kicked off the 2019 NBA Playoffs and it was a not a good start for the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers lost game 1 to the Brooklyn Nets 111-102. Besides the upsetting loss, most of the chatter on social media and on ESPN and TNT was about 76ers star player Joel Embiid looking at the cellphone of teammate Amir Johnson. The backlash happened quick, and when reporters asked Head Coach Brett Brown about the incident, he was not thrilled. The 76ers later reported that Amir Johnson was fined for having his phone on the bench, breaking both team rules and NBA league rules about cellphone use during a game. After the game, Embiid revealed Johnson only had the phone to check in with his daughter who was sick at the time.
Part of the backlash stemmed from the 76ers being embarrassed by a lesser opponent, at home and on national TV. If the 76ers would have won the game, it would have been a minor story, but with playoff basketball comes extra scrutiny and pressure and the young 76ers team is now being accused of being immature, unprofessional and not ready for the limelight of added playoff expectations. This story will most likely linger if the 76ers are eliminated in the playoff early.
The controversy kicked off several different arguments on social media and even tho this story is about sports, the conversation goes deeper about how and when different workplaces should adapt to modern changes in society.
Golden State Warriors player, Draymond Green, chimed in on the story too. He didn’t understand the backlash or why people would be mad because most people use their phones at work too. It is a valiant point because most people, depending on their job, use their phones quite frequently for both personal and professional reasons. There is currently a budding tech industry to make texting and communication apps for the workplace such as Slack, Flock, Chatwork, and Hipchat but social norms tend to take longer to change compared to advances in technology.
This story reminded me of what happened to Elon Musk, after a bizarre video of him attempting to smoke weed went viral, it became somewhat of a major news story and people criticized him for it. He followed that up by tweeting a joke he would take Tesla private at $420. The “420” being a reference to 4/20, a day people have used to fight for marijuana legislation. This set off a chain of reactions that saw Musk get a $20 million dollar fine by the SEC and he ended up resigning as the Chairman of Tesla.
Draymond Green is right, fans and sports reporters have no real reason to be mad at players for using their phones on the bench. The same cannot be said of their respective teams or the league offices of the NBA. They have a right to be mad for both team reasons and business reasons. With legal restrictions being scaled back on gambling and sports becoming much more gambling friendly, it won’t be a surprise to see more restrictive phone policies take place to prevent any semblance of gambling scandals. Gambling scandals have a history in sports from the early 1900’s and I’m sure no sports league would want to be involved in such with our current landscape of social media and technology.