Howard Denies Using The Term "Blackmail" To Describe Magic's Push For Him To Re-Sign
Magic C Dwight Howard said that he “will not re-sign with a team outside his preferred list that trades for him, and emphatically denied that he ever used the term ‘blackmail’ to describe how Magic officials convinced him to waive his early termination option,” according to Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. Howard said, "There’s only one team on my list and if I don’t get traded there, I'll play the season out and explore my free agency after that." Howard would not specify the team, but multiple league sources “believe that it is the Brooklyn Nets.” Howard also denied an ESPN report that he had "told people Orlando Magic officials had ‘blackmailed’ him into forgoing the early termination option on his contract that ultimately cost him his free agency this summer.” Howard: "I never used the word blackmail in reference to any of my dealings with the Magic. I never said that. It’s defamatory and it’s inaccurate. I know what blackmail means and any report that I used the term incorrectly is inaccurate" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/2). In the original report, ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported Howard “picked up the option for the final year of his contract with Orlando on March 15," but since then has “grown increasingly disgruntled with the organization, even telling people close to him that he feels the Magic ‘blackmailed’ him into signing the ‘opt-in’ clause.” Sources said that Howard “used the word ‘blackmailed’ incorrectly and simply feels the Magic made promises that have not been kept to get him to sign.” Sources said that Howard “shared his feelings of being blackmailed by the Magic with the NBA Players Association last week.” Either Howard or his reps “approached the union wondering if he might have a legal complaint against the club.” Sources said that the NBPA is “considering whether or not to pursue legal action against the Magic” (ESPN.com, 6/30).
DWIGHT DRAMA: In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes if Howard is “actually making the reckless claim of ‘blackmail’ after preaching ‘loyalty’ then that would make him the most disingenuous superstar in all of sports” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/2). CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger wrote the Howard trade talk has “reached new levels of absurdity that defy even the most dumbed-down standards for sports hypocrisy and lewdness” (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/1). SPORTING NEWS’ David Whitley wrote, “Just when you thought he couldn’t damage his reputation any more, Howard is claiming the Orlando Magic ‘blackmailed’ him into staying with the team.” Howard has “turned into such a prima donna Cher should be suing him for stealing her act” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/1). ESPN's Jemele Hill said, "He’s got a lot of growing up to do and that’s what we’ve seen play out in this process. The reason he probably doesn’t want to stick around in Orlando is because he’s now realizing the gravity of what he caused" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 7/1).