When Cleveland native Scott Raab fired off a tweet stating that he had been officially banned from American Airlines Arena by the Miami Heat, the initial reaction was the “what did he do/say?” variety. Receiving an e-mail of his dismissal shortly after filing a piece for Equire.com, the answer to this question still remains unclear.
In his latest filing, Raab channels Herman Melville in his depiction of his flight from Newark, N.J., to Miami, Fla. The symbolism of an Albino Whale, “whose color is an absence of color,” and somehow – in his very own way – manages to tie it all in to Heat President Pat Riley and the team’s superstar forward, two-time MVP LeBron James.
Raab, 58, says it was only a matter of time before Tim Donovan, Vice President of Sports Media Relations for the Heat, would find some reason to tell Raab that he is “no longer welcome in [the American Airlines Arena]” as a member of the media, but even he did not think it would be during the first month of the NBA season. After all, this was only the third time amidst this still-young season that Raab had taken his talents to South Beach.
A nonfiction author and 14-year scribe for Esquire, Raab tells WFNY that he is not quite sure what sort of limitations his not being welcome inside the Arena will impose, but he will find out on Wednesday when he attends the Heat-Suns contest as a paying customer. With a Chief Wahoo tattoo and a very distinct appearance (some say he is the spitting image of the late Jerry Garcia), Raab will not have much of an opportunity to blend in, but simultaneously, he has no intention of doing so.
Penning pieces on interest points that range from John Demjanjuk all the way to the potential reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York, Raab’s current endeavor encompasses the departure of Ohio’s own James from the city of Cleveland to his new home in Miami. And while the two aforementioned can be categorized as war crimes that had socioeconomic effects, it is his work on a basketball player that appears to be rife with roadblocks.
“I traveled to the Ukraine and Poland [to cover Demjanjuk],” said Raab. “I wrote about one of the toughest events of modern time with the potential rebuilding of the [World] Trade Center. And while I understand that James is a large money-maker for the NBA, Nike and ESPN – who are more and more looking like one company – let’s not try to make this more than it truly is.”
While Raab will be the first to admit his disdain for the topic at hand (he has coined the hashtag “WhoreOfAkron” on Twitter), he is the consummate professional. Often surrounded by beat writers and radio producers looking for their day’s worth of player quotes, Raab often sits back and takes in the surroundings. Whether outside of a locker room or inside of a table-laden press conference room, he is not there to step on the toes of his colleagues. Which is why, after penning a piece for Esquire.com, Raab was caught off guard when he received a one-sentence e-mail from Miami Heat PR. Responding back six minutes later, hoping for additional clarity as to why the team made this decision, Raab has yet to receive a reply (nor does he expect to).
When asked if he feels that his tone, one that is typically a little more brash than those provided by ESPN, Yahoo! or Sports Illustrated, could be reason for his dismissal, Raab said he does not count it out. But in the same, he also feels that as a legitimate author who has been in journalism for 20 years, he deserves the same treatment as someone like Adrian Wojnarowski (who Raab admires a great deal).
“My name may not be as well known as some of the other guys,” said Raab. “But I am not some guy who just fell off of the turnip truck and decided to write a book on a basketball player.”
And while this may all sound like a Miami-versus-Cleveland issue, Raab says it is far from it. He actually faults the league for putting Donovan in the difficult position of credentialing a member of the media who has nothing glowing to say about the organization. A simple Google search will lead one to relatively scathing remarks about James, the Heat and even Pat Riley. Donovan (who, on his best day, Raab claims makes Tad Carper, VP of Communications for the Cleveland Cavaliers, look like the Dalai Lama), would not have to be put in this predicament if Raab were treated like the rest of the national media credentialed by the league.
Unfortunately, after applying for league-wide access, Raab was told that he did not qualify for such. The issue, though, is there is no formal policy by which the league bases its decisions, seemingly going on a completely ad hoc basis.
Raab was told that it “does not help his case” that his book is not authorized by LeBron James. He also vows that this lack of credentialing and perceived poor treatment is far from over. During his conversation with WFNY, Raab was simultaneously corresponding with a first-amendment attorney who could play a part in Raab’s earth-scorching, which he hopes results in the access he needs to complete his project.
But about the piece that resulted in his dismissal, at least for the time being, Raab reflects:
“I knew that they would be looking for something to hold against me. At least I made him sift through some Herman Melville before they were able to get to what they were looking for.”