The Hawks were fined an undisclosed amount for violation of the NBA’s anti-tampering policy Monday.
The league confirmed only that three teams were fined for violations of the policy. However, the Hawks issued an unattributed statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday that read: “We fully understand and respect the NBA’s decision.”
Hawks president Bob Williams declined comment.
The Hawks’ infraction was first reported by the AJC last week after it obtained letters sent to prospective ticket buyers that mentioned pending free agents Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.
Three different letters were sent by a season-ticket representative who was terminated after the team reported the situation to the league. Each letter contained similar mentions of Howard and Paul, who are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.
The other two teams that were fined, which were not identified by the NBA, are reportedly the Rockets and Kings. The Rockets were reportedly fined for content that appeared on the team’s website. New Kings coach Mike Malone was quoted recently that Paul would “look pretty good in a Sacramento Kings uniform.”
The Hawks’ first letter obtained, dated June 3, was sent via email on team and Philips Arena letterhead. As Howard and Paul are currently under contract with the Lakers and Clippers respectively, no team is not allowed to speak about them publicly.
The letter was headlined: “Hot New Player news: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard,” and began with the statement: “The buzz around our offseason is more than heating up. With massive cap space, 4 draft picks, and free agency rapidly approaching, we sit in the best position in the NBA. Player interest is skyrocketing as the possibilities of landing Chris Paul & Dwight Howard become more and more of a reality.”
The questionable practice began as early as March 1, when the representative sent a letter via e-mail with the subject line “Dwight Howard to Atlanta.” As part of the sales pitch the letter included the sentence: “How would the front line of Dwight Howard, Al Horford, and Josh Smith sound?”
Another letter, dated May 10, stated: “Superstars, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, are just a few of the great players available in free agency this season and once we start make (sic) our moves with the potential of landing one or two elite players, you don’t want to be the one left out.”
As part of its collectivebBargaining agreement, the league defines tampering as when a player or team directly or indirectly entices, induces or persuades any player under contract with another team in order to negotiate for their services. The NBA detailed its anti-tampering policy in a memo sent to all 30 teams in 2008.
In a statement to the AJC last week, Williams said, “The (first) letter that has been referred to was written by one of our season-ticket reps of his own volition. While certainly he is a member of our business staff, his specific reference clearly does not represent how our basketball operations or our business staff have consistently communicated about free agency. It is unfortunate that this mistake, by a single ticket rep with no ill intent, occurred.”
The NBA has issued large fines for violations of the anti-tampering policy in the past. In May of 2010, when LeBron James was about to become an unrestricted free agent, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban ($100,000), Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon ($25,000) and then-Suns president of basketball operations Steve Kerr ($10,000) were all fined in the same week for public comments mentioning James.