ESPN analyst told Kyrie Irving that NBA players are 'property'

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By RADIO.COM

A prominent NBA reporter has suggested she views professional basketball players as the "property" of the teams they play for.

Jackie MacMullan, a longtime ESPN scribe and analyst who recently joined The Ringer podcast network as a contributor, expressed the staunchly pro-management sentiment this week while discussing polarizing Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving.

Appearing on The Ryen Russillo Podcast along with Ringer mogul Bill Simmons, MacMullan opened up about a debate she said she once had with Irving, essentially over how much control players should have over their own careers.

MacMullan said that Irving suggested it's unfair for players to have little say in steering their careers due to the randomness of the amateur draft -- an argument she seemed to forcefully oppose.

"I was thinking of all the conversations I've had with Kyrie over the years," MacMullan said. "One of them I had, I don't know, two years ago, we got into this argument about, you know, something, and he's like, 'Well, there shouldn't be an NBA Draft -- players should be able to go wherever they want to go. We're not someone's property.'

"And I'm like, 'Yeah you are dude, that's the way it works -- that's why you get paid all these millions.'

"And so I really think in Kyrie's mind -- I think the effects of the Capitol, I think the effects of the Jacob Blake shooting, I genuinely -- those things affected him, they bothered him, he felt like we are not putting importance where it belongs. These things are more important. I really believe that."

MacMullan, a Boston-based national reporter and analyst, has made regular appearances on ESPN's afternoon debate show Around the Horn for years.

Russillo's podcast, where MacMullan made the property remarks, came under fire earlier this year when the host and Simmons apologized after offering up a decidedly insensitive and tone-deaf take on protests that gripped the country in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.

Elsewhere in the recent episode, Simmons makes a long analogy in which he compares NBA players to pet dogs, before catching himself and saying he meant no offense.

Irving, who spoke out on racial and social injustices amid the mass unrest, was reportedly among a faction of players who expressed doubts about resuming the NBA season in the bubble on the campus of Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Former President Barack Obama was said to have intervened on behalf of the league and its business interests to call on Irving and others to ditch the potential budding player strike.