Well, looks like the Dallas Mavericks’ press box has a few open seats. Team owner Mark Cuban has apparently revoked media credentials for two ESPN reporters, meaning they no longer have access to players, coaches, and areas of the arena typically accessible to journalists trying to do their jobs. According to the blog Mavs Moneyball, Cuban took away Mavs press passes for ESPN’s Tim MacMahon and Marc Stein, though he did tell one reporter that the pair is not “banned” per se, because “they can still buy a ticket” to home games.
— Art Garcia (@ArtGarcia92) November 7, 2016
It’s unclear what, exactly, prompted this sudden stonewalling of certain members of the media. Common sense would indicate the reporters had written a story that Cuban felt was too critical of his struggling team, but it seems that may not be the case. Instead, Mavs Moneyball suggested that Cuban’s iron-fisted act could be a result of ESPN not covering his team enough. Writes Mavs Moneyball:
MacMahon’s role at ESPN changed this year, transitioning from a full-time Mavericks beat writer to a more general NBA position that included other teams, something Cuban was unhappy with. After ESPN failed to return MacMahon to a full-time beat position, Cuban followed through on an initial warning and revoked his and Stein’s credentials.
If true, then that’s an extremely petty move on Cuban’s part. But it also seems somewhat counterintuitive, considering revoking the credentials of ESPN’s reporters isn’t exactly the best way to get your team more coverage from ESPN. Cuban hasn’t publicly clarified why he did what he did, telling the Associated Press that the issue is “between us and ESPN.” According to the Big Lead, the NBA is “in communication” with both the Mavs and ESPN, but who knows what that actually means.
The Professional Basketball Writers Association of American also weighed in on the situation, issuing the following statement:
We are deeply troubled by the Dallas Mavericks’ move to revoke the credentials of two respected, longtime NBA journalists. The Mavericks’ move is without merit. We call on the Mavericks to reverse their decision or for NBA officials to intervene to allow Tim MacMahon and Marc Stein to continue their work.
Both Stein and MacMahon are among the most respected NBA reporters around. Stein’s been covering the league for nearly 25 years, including his time as a Mavs beat reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Both reporters are based in Dallas. Stein in particular is probably ESPN’s go-to guy for breaking NBA news, and he has one million followers on Twitter.
As Deadspin notes, this isn’t the first time the fiery billionaire has cut off reporters trying to cover his team. Way back in 2008, Cuban announced the team would not allow any “bloggers” into the locker room before or after games (which is pretty much the only time NBA reporters have access to the entire team). Cuban’s official reason for that ban was that there just wasn’t enough room in the locker room for everybody, though it came on the heels of a story written by MacMahon, who was a Morning News blogger at the time, that may have appeared to be critical of then-Mavs coach Avery Johnson. The 2008 ban didn’t last long, though, so we should probably expect to see MacMahon and Stein have their credentials reinstated pretty soon this time around too.