JJ Redick explains why he was upset at coverage of Markelle Fultz last year

AP
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JJ Redick famously lashed out at reporters last season for covering seemingly every moment of 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz’s workout routine last season. The Philadelphia 76ers guard chided reporters for zeroing in on a player who was just 19 years old at the time, and who was clearly going through some sort of odd mental block with his shooting form.

During Zach Lowe’s podcast on Thursday, Redick elaborated on his emotions at that time, saying that he felt it was out of line for media to continually publish updates on Fultz during practices.

Redick’s response comes at around 35:00 during Lowe’s podcast:

You have a responsibility to cover the story, I get it … There’s a tension to it. I think whatt made me angry that day, and it had been festering, was the way in which people were physically covering him with the cell phones.

That was like our third practice leading up to the trade deadline, and I think the trade deadline had just passed, so we had three practices in the span of that weak. Every time we’d finish practice, or finish shootaround, and the doors would open for the media … you’d see this mad rush to get prime footage location. Everyone would get their cellphones out and they’d start recording him … doing who the fuck knows. Dribbling a basketball, shooting a free throw … mundane things. We, by that point, had seen months of him shooting.

On that particular day, Bryan Colangelo had a press conference … and they all came in with body language like they were vultures preying over a dying, decaying body. The kid was 19, he’s clearly going through something. I got angry … basically cussed them out.

He was my rookie so I guess I was protective but also empathetic. Whatever he was going through, physically or mentally, as an athlete we’ve all been there. There’s varying degrees of extremes to that but we’ve been there.

Lowe: There were also people in your organization who were saying, ‘Why is he out there when the media is coming in?’

Redick: That was his choice. Markelle is an adult, he wanted to be out there.

As an athlete, Redick’s disposition is understandable. He is going to be loyal to his teammates, and have more empathy for the athlete’s side of things. But the line of morality for journalists doesn’t necessitate shielding legal adults who are struggling to perform on a basketball court. That was the duty of the 76ers, if anything. Readers seemed to eventually tire of hearing about Fultz and his issues, although local editors in Philadelphia probably saw less of that.

Redick doesn’t have the experience or training to decide what is newsworthy and when. That is up to editors and journalists covering teams. The real burden lay with the Sixers when it came to Fultz last season. Teams close practices to the media all the time, and the reality is it isn’t natural for media to attend one-on-one workouts for individual players. Media access for those types of things are decided by front office.

The 76ers decided not to (or could not) dissuade Fultz from being in front of the media during the time they were allowed into the practice facility. That’s on Fultz, and the Sixers. Fultz made an adult decision to allow the media to cover him during a vulnerable time. That’s probably not what Redick wanted — and my personal opinion is to concur — but that’s what happened.

The Sixers could have just as easily kept him away, and had private sessions with Fultz until he returned to some kind of form becoming of an NBA player. Videoing the No. 1 overall pick from a $1 billion sports franchise was not just within the realm of journalistic morality, it was necessary from a duty of coverage standpoint, particularly for local outlets in Philly.

Redick can feel the way he feels. He has that right. Journalists cover what they do, with years of training to dictate how to do it. They don’t have to agree. For Sixers fans, the hope is that trainer Drew Hanlen really has fixed Fultz’s jumper, so we can put this story to bed.

I’ll agree with Redick on one point: the whole story is quite tired.