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Giving flopping another chance

Guest contribution by Dynasty Athlete Representation summer intern, Justin Herzig.

When Googling the phrase “flopping in the NBA,” nearly every link that pops up leads to an article or blog criticizing flopping. Just about all the articles have one of two purposes: either to explain why flopping is happening or to complain about how flopping is ruining the sport. While there have certainly been times when flopping has changed the outcomes of games, this is no reason to resort to penalizing the act.

Take a look at just about every sport and you’ll find very similar events to flopping. In Little League, the most basic lessons taught to catchers are really no different than flopping. The catchers are taught to immediately pull the baseball into their chest after catching it. Quite frankly, the goal of trying to make the balls appear as strikes is done to trick and fool the umpires. Likewise, every outfielder is going to attempt to make dives appear to be catches, whether or not the ball actually bounced. If one day Manny Ramirez was to signal to the third base umpire that a ball called out actually dropped, not only would all of Boston go crazy, Terry Francona would have a fit and assume Manny’s gone crazy. If a catcher wasn’t pulling balls into his chest, both the pitchers and coaches would have something to say and you can be sure soon after, every pitch would be pulled into that chest.

With the NCAA Tennis championships just wrapping up, we can use collegiate team tennis as another great example. In collegiate tennis and all levels below, the players have to make their own calls with referees at times on the court, to supervise and provide rulings when asked. The teammates that are not on court during a match are encouraged and at times even required to provide support to their teammates, as they very well should. Now when a player hits a down the line passing shot that may have landed a tad bit out, there is no doubt the players (and fans) watching will instantly cheer for the supposed nice shot. Players are encouraged to do this at all times, even when they are sure the ball was out. This is all done as an effort to peer-pressure the opposing player away from calling it out. And as an ex-national level tennis player, I can tell you that when there is any doubt in a player’s mind as to whether his opponent’s ball landed in or out, it is never easy to call it out when you have large amounts of people cheering the opposite way.

The last example, which is most notable and evident across the country, is in the game of soccer. This is common practice in soccer as there are many instances where coaches have admitted to teaching younger players tactics and strategies for getting fouls called.

Any contact by either player will very commonly end in both players on the ground, irrespective of what actually occurred. A push can easily mask its way as a punch, just as a conversation commonly turns into two imaginary head-butts. These are all common practice both in America and abroad for soccer.

Attempting to control any of these events is ridiculous and impossible. Players are going to do everything possible to gain a competitive advantage. Analysts are crying out that it isn’t fair that hard working players who never flop can lose close games due to single events such as the infamous Kirilenko flop during the Rockets-Jazz playoff game of this year.

However, Kirilenko put his heart out and took a chance. Had his flopping not been called, he would have put himself in a horrible position for the next play and threatened his team’s chance at winning that game. The extra effort, though, is what separates good players from great players. Now don’t go yelling blasphemy yet; I am not saying that Kirilenko’s flop makes him great, but I do respect the man for it. With less than a minute left in the game and Houston about to shoot the tying shot, he was in a position where he had no chance at stopping the shot or deflecting the pass. Thus, he did all he could to help his team win and in this instance, that action was to do anything possible to get a foul called, thus preventing the Rockets from getting a chance at tying the game.

If I’m watching a baseball game and I don’t see a catcher pulling that ball to his chest, I inherently judge him on the basis of not putting in enough effort as he could. With the new rule against flopping in the NBA, players who have historically put in that extra effort are now told quite frankly, stop. New rules are continuously being added and at some point, they have to stop. Yes, banning the use of steroids by players was a good call because it threatened people’s health. And many may agree that it was also a good rule when the NBA decided players couldn’t show any emotion if they disagreed with a call. And just maybe could it have been a good decision to make rules about the etiquette of players and what they can and can’t do with their hands during a free throw shot. But somewhere, things have to be stopped. And the line should be drawn here. If not, genuine fouls will be overlooked as players will do everything possible to avoid the foul from looking like flopping. If a player gets elbowed in the face, no blood drawn will now mean it never happened. If a player gets tripped, they must pretend as if they slipped and nothing happened. No player would want to risk getting a technical or fined in the instance that what they thought was someone else’s foot, ended up just being their own clumsiness. Because hey, when examining film after the game, someone accidentally tripping on themselves could easily be considered flopping. There is no doubt this new rule will lead to less flopping, but all together, a new “Just Be Careful” mindset will only hurt the competitiveness of the game.

So c’mon now; let the players play. Let the games go on. Trying to get fouls called is just a way of the game. In fact, it’s a way of most sports. And just as no other sport has created similar rules, the NBA needs not either. Contrary to what many believe, things will work themselves out without the continued intervention of these men in suits.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

3 replies on “Giving flopping another chance”

>> And just as no other sport has created similar rules, the NBA needs not either.

Actually soccer instituted a rule that players who dive are to be cautioned (yellow-carded). And in most of the European leagues that I watch it is called with some regularity.

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