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A Breakdown of NBA Fines and Where the Money Goes

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Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated dives into the people involved in fines, from the players charged to the places that receive the money.

Portland Trail Blazers v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers forward Evan Turner was recently fined $10,000 for an “obscene gesture” in Portland’s heated game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Guard CJ McCollum was suspended for the season opener — amounting to about a $170,000 loss — stemming from a preseason incident. Ever wondered what happens to that money? Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated has a comprehensive breakdown of the fine system.

First, there’s the players who receive fines. Matt Barnes, receiver of a pile of fines during his playing time, has his thoughts on how to pay them off:

“[The league] took my money and I never knew where it went,” Barnes said. “And they’re taking the money at such a high rate that it should have gone towards something that I wanted. As players, we earned the money. A $50,000 fine is a s---load of money. Let me send that to my non-profit or one of my friend’s non-profits so that I know it’s really making a difference.”

Then there’s those who give out fines, which often includes an interview with the player in question and is led by Executive VP Kiki VanDeWeghe:

VanDeWeghe and the league office make their decision shortly after the official interview and then announce the punishment via press release the same day. According to NBPA lawyer Gary Kohlman, the NBA’s punishment decisions are made “within hours, if not minutes” of the call’s conclusion. Monetary fines, whether in the form of a set dollar amount or a game check, are then withheld from the player’s next paycheck by his team. This perfunctory process—with the NBA effectively serving as prosecutor, judge and bank teller—can leave players feeling aggrieved.

And, coming back to Barnes’ earlier point, charities often receive fine money — but it’s not all cut and dry, with the money only going where the league directs it:

The money is gone from the player’s paycheck. Now what?

The short answer is spelled out in the CBA: Player fines go to charity. The slightly longer answer: Half of the money goes to the NBA for distribution to its official charitable partners and the other half goes to the NBPA. Technically, the NBPA’s half is managed by the NBPA Foundation, a separate 501 (c)(3) non-profit run by executive director Sherrie Deans.

The NBPA Foundation engages in community outreach, “often with the goal of growing the game or honoring the sport’s history.” This includes a variety of things, from basketball programs overseas to providing aid to Flint, Mich.

Golliver also covers the ethical and logistical reasons why fine money is not allowed to be dispersed from players to charities of their choice directly.

You can read the various layers to the NBA’s fine system as detailed here.