Blog: Season 1

Jackson Williams, a sports enthusiast, writes about all things sports. 

Sportzball: Season 1

Thoughts on Player Loyalty and Burning Jerseys

Player mobility and franchise loyalty has always been a novel concept in professional sports. The issue has been a particularly big deal during the past few years, most notably when Kevin Durant chose to sign with the Golden State Warriors and when LeBron James signed with the Miami Heat. When many players elect to leave their teams now, fans have decided that the best way to express their frustration, is to burn their jerseys.

Me personally, I don’t understand the idea behind burning jerseys. I can understand the frustration that many fans can have when a player elects to leave a team, but I do not understand how spewing so much hate towards a player will make you feel better. When LeBron left Cleveland, he was villainized for creating a super-team and was met with boos wherever he went. When Kevin Durant left OKC, the same thing happened.

It is interesting to me how when a player chooses to leave and take on a new challenge somewhere else, how fans can’t seem to logically understand the choice. When LeBron was on the Cavaliers for the first time, management could not get him any help or sign any free agents to attempt to win the NBA title, so he left to join a team that had the ability to put pieces together and help James win a title. Logically, the move made sense for LeBron. He had already won two MVP awards and had yet to win an NBA title, the only thing that would further LeBron’s career would be winning a championship. When Kevin Durant left, he had just spent the first nine seasons of his career with Oklahoma City, and they never won a title. They had only been to the finals one time, and like LeBron, Durant needed a ring to help further his career. During the last few years in OKC, Durant saw the team shift its focus more to Russell Westbrook, and the offense would be centered around Russell, with Durant often playing second fiddle.

If you put yourself in KD or LeBron’s shoes, you would probably do the same exact thing, I know that I would.

Now when a player leaves in free agency or requests a trade, I understand being upset with a player, but if a player is traded away without requesting a trade, then resenting the player does not make sense. Just two days ago, Isaiah Thomas was traded away from the Boston Celtics in order to acquire Kyrie Irving. Isaiah Thomas played a big part in recruiting Gordon Hayward, and was seen as the face of the franchise. Kyrie Irving requested to be traded away. Thomas had turned into a folk hero in Boston, he had an MVP caliber season, played hurt, and played playoff games for the team just a day after his sister passed away. He gave the city of Boston everything he had, and to see fans burning his jersey is absurd to me.

I think that when a player leaves his team for a new venture, fans should look back and celebrate the player for what he did for the team. The player should be thanked and applauded when he returns to play in the city he just left. Burning a player’s jersey is an act that makes very little sense, and it should be stopped.

If a player has his jersey burned by the fans of the team he just left, then I understand why he left, and am glad he did so.