NBA ‘handshake ban’ is out of line and unnecessary

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Last season was one of the NBA’s best from a pure exposure standpoint. Record television ratings, several marketable stars, and a frenzied season full of post-lockout transactions made for an extremely successful year for basketball.

But even with all of the positives, there were still issues for the league to address. The lengths of games, which have been getting longer and more drawn out for years, continue to be a problem.

So the NBA is being proactive and doing something about it. Last week, the NBA announced a rule where players would get 90 seconds for pregame handshakes and rituals. This is being done in an effort to make sure games begin on time.


Yes, the NBA is trying to convince the public that pregame handshakes are the reason for lengthy games. Of course, there was no mention of the endless number of television timeouts that fans are forced to endure.

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The NBA players are predictably upset by the decision, as this is just another rule by a professional league to curb any type of expression from its players. With this rule, the NBA also just assumes that the general public doesn’t like these handshakes and rituals and wants them out of the league.

Many of the players disagree:

“The fans enjoy it,” [said Kevin Durant]. You see the fans mimicking the guys who do their stuff before the game. To cut that down really don’t make no sense.”

This ruling is part of a trend of major leagues attempting to take a lot of the fun out of sports. A few years ago the NFL set new rules on touchdown celebrations. Terrell Owens taking a cheerleader’s pom poms or Steve Smith making a snow angel were apparently just too much of a distraction for the No Fun League.

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Also forget about your favorite player having a presence on Twitter. Several college football coaches have banned players from tweeting, with the reasoning being that allowing players to tweet hurts coaches with preparation.

What they fail to see is how Twitter is also a great marketing tool for these young athletes, who coincidentally are currently not being paid for their services. Some of the top collegiate athletes who are allowed to tweet are using it to expand their brand…who’s a college coach to say otherwise? The NFL is not quite as severe, but still have stipulations in place on how close to game times NFL players are not allowed to tweet.

And hey, I suppose not being able to tweet 90 minutes before a game is better than getting a fine for wearing the wrong colored undershirt.

No seriously, that actually happened.

These types of rules evaporate all personality from our players. Sure, there’s some value in some of these rules (the Twitter ban at least will save some athletes from themselves), but as a whole, they just serve as these leagues doing all they can to control their workforce.

That workforce is made up of grown men who bring the league’s millions – and sometimes billions — of dollars. If a guy wants to do a pregame dance, give handshakes to his teammates and opponents, or do a clever touchdown celebration…why not let them? What harm does it cause?

The NBA has seen a renaissance in the last decade, as the league is now filled with marketable stars with big personalities. Don’t turn those players into drones. Let them be themselves and continue to reap the benefits of their rising star power.

Follow Stefen Lovelace on Twitter at @StefenLovelace