Atlanta Hawks Possible "Tampering" Violation Should Be Least of Worries for Fans

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard coming to Atlanta? If you listen to the Hawks’ sales department they are.

So let’s not make too big of a deal about this Atlanta Hawks “tampering” fiasco. Yes, it’s bad…but it’s not going to tear down the franchise.

We hope.

It was a stupid mistake by some sales & marketing whiz (a “single ticket rep with no ill intent” as stated by Hawks president Bob Williams) who decided that teasing potential ticket buyers with the names Chris Paul and Dwight Howard would boost sales.

Here are some excerpts from the letter that was obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Hot New Player news: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard….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 letter included a link to a story on saying that Paul was unhappy that fingers were pointed his way in playing a role in the dismissal of head coach Vinny Del Negro.

 “This is your opportunity to get on board before its (sic) too late. Once we solidify our signings there will be no seats left,”

The NBA defines tampering as “When a player or a team directly or indirectly entices, induces or persuades anyone under contract with another team in order to negotiate for their services.”, and they further clarified the rule in 2008 when they sent out a memo to all teams that read, “If a member of your organization is asked by the media about a potential free agent before the July 1 following the last season covered by the player’s contract, or about any other person under contract with another NBA team, the only proper response is to decline comment.”

So yes, this is potentially a violation of those rules, intentional or not. 

Hawks president Bob Williams has some ‘splaining to do

More important than the letter violating the NBA’s no-tampering rules, is the violation of ethical sales practices by the Hawks. Is it really right to bring up the names of players who we don’t even know will be available to entice people into buying tickets?

Who knows where either of those guys will possibly end up, and most educated Hawks fans really want nothing to do with the Dwightmare anyway. As for Chris Paul, well long-time Hawks fans know that the team opted for Marvin Williams over Paul in the 2005 NBA Draft. And yes, it still stings to this day.

This is clearly just an attempt by a salesperson to use the names of some potential free agents to line his/her own pockets.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the Hawks have run afoul of the league’s tampering rules. In 2010, when LeBron James was about to embark on his journey towards “The Decision”, Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon was fined $25,000 for comments he made to the AJC about James, when he said “If somebody came to us tomorrow and said you can have LeBron for max money and it puts you in the luxury tax, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But am I going to do that for (Zydrunas) Ilgauskas? Am I going to do it for Jermaine O’Neal? I don’t think so. …”

You can argue that this latest snafu was a rouge salesperson, just out to make a buck and willing to do whatever it took to make it happen. But you’d think that something that was sent out on Atlanta Hawks letterhead to a list of ticket buyers owned by the team would be double-checked by someone.

So once again, the system within the system fails, and the Hawks are made to look inept even in their own infrastructure. Shady…sketchy even. If I were Paul or Howard, it would make me seriously consider if this was an organization I wanted to join.

Is this a big deal in the grand scheme of things? No, probably not. It will more than likely only end up in a fine. But a team that’s trying to rebuild with a new coach can’t afford to look ridiculous to the rest of the league.

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