Dieter Kurtenbach: Klay Thompson, Brandon Aiyuk's social media antics put a price on embarrassment

Dieter Kurtenbach, Bay Area News Group on

Published in Basketball

The U.S. surgeon general wants to put a warning label — á la cigarettes — on social media, claiming that it is harmful to the mental health of teens.

He should consider expanding that warning to professional athletes, too.

Warning: Using social media during contract negotiations can make you look like a teen.

For San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and Golden Gate Warriors star Klay Thompson, that’s obviously not a good look.

And it’s certainly not one that helps them amid contract negotiations with their Bay Area teams.

The good news? It’s social media — nothing on it matters.

Money talks and bull, well, excrement walks. It’s not hard to figure out what social media posturing is.

So, no, I don’t buy any of this affecting negotiations.

But that doesn’t mean these guys can’t embarrass themselves in the meantime.

Thompson, who is poised to explore unrestricted free agency this summer after 13 seasons with the Warriors, decided to unfollow the Warriors on Instagram, and removed a great deal of Warriors-related content on the social media site.

The move is straight out of a 10th-grader’s breakup playbook. Thompson, a 34-year-old multi-millionaire and four-time NBA champion, wants the Warriors to know that he totally doesn’t even think about them anymore, you guys.

Meanwhile, Aiyuk who is under contract for this season, posted a video to his TikTok where he tells Commanders rookie quarterback Jayden Daniels “They said they don’t want me back” on a Facetime call.

“They” is presumably the 49ers. It could also be the Marshalls department store Aiyuk posted a TikTok video about last month.

“Im laughing but im crying fr” was the caption of the most recent video.

Angsty stuff. Is Aiyuk about to go into a goth phase?

I joke because it’s all so laughable. (And no, I am not crying for real.)

Don’t take my word for it, just ask Draymond Green.

“I think it’s f****** hilarious… I think that’s comical,” Green said of Thompson’s Instagram tactics on his eponymous podcast.

The idea that either of these social media moves is leverage for the players is absurd. They’re attention-grabbing, sure, and perhaps that curries favor with a portion of the “fan base” whose brains have been rendered into a mush by the algorithms. But how does acting out for attention on social media convince the Warriors or 49ers to give either party the extra millions of dollars these wannabe teens want?

If anything, it can make the opposite argument.


Thompson is looking for “respect” from the Warriors in contract negotiations. At least that’s the word that keeps coming up in conversations about the subject.

But here he is being passive-aggressive on social media. Is that something worthy of respect?

Of course “respect” is just a code for larger direct deposits. The Warriors are pressed up against the luxury tax aprons, and can only offer Thompson, a declining player, so much. And so Thompson will test the market and see if anyone can beat the Warriors’ number. They might, they might not. At least if he does leave, he won’t have to spend any time cleaning up his social media.

At least Aiyuk isn’t coding “respect.” He wants to be one of the highest-paid non-quarterbacks in the league.

The 49ers are, legitimately, wary of giving into Aiyuk’s demands.

Plus, San Francisco doesn’t need to do anything. Aiyuk is under contract for this season. The Niners can franchise tag him for the 2025 and 2026 campaigns.

Ultimately both Aiyuk and the Niners want the cost-certainty that comes with a long-term deal, but the 49ers already have that with the next three seasons — if the Niners make Aiyuk play out his fifth-year option then franchise tag him twice after that, it’s roughly $70 million.

So Aiyuk can infer that the 49ers don’t want him back and make a big stink out of it, but the fact of the matter is that he is under contract. He has to go back. He’ll be fined $40,000 for every day of training camp missed and a regular-season game check for every preseason game missed. Add in the $100,000 in fines Aiyuk has accrued from already missing mini-camp and, In all, it’s roughly $4 million in fines for Aiyuk if he pushes this thing as far as Nick Bosa did last season — and there’s no guarantee the Niners waive those fines if he doesn’t sign a new contract.

But anything to attract a few new TikTok followers, right?

Maybe he’ll do a dance outside the lunch room when he signs that new deal.

The great soccer manager Jurgen Klopp said “It’s not so important what people think when you come in. It’s much more important what people think when you leave.”

If this is, indeed, it for Thompson, our last memories of him will be a 0-for-10 performance in the playoffs and this bit of pettiness.

And if this is Aiyuk’s last move before a trade, will 49ers fans view him as the one who got away?

Both men want $30 million a year and they have every right to negotiate for as much as they can get by any legal means they can use. This is, after all, still America.

But how much is a legacy worth?

And how about one’s dignity?

Because no matter how much these two can squeeze out of the Niners and Warriors in the coming weeks, they won’t have enough to buy back either.


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