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Adam Silver Wants To Change The Narrative With The Term Owner

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Changing the term owner to Governor is another example of the NBA’s commitment to diversity and quickly addressing social issues that are troubling for its players.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver knows how to make a social justice splash and strengthen the bond of trust between himself and the Black players that drive the league’s worldwide popularity and multi-billion dollar enterprise. 

Silver said in an interview that aired Monday his office is done using the word “owner” in a league where 81.9 percent of the players are people of color and just three of the league’s 30 teams have majority owners of color, according to Richard Lapchick, author of the NBA’s annual Racial and Gender Report Card.

Michael Jordan is the majority team owner and Chairman of the Charlotte Hornets. Vivek Ranadive, who is from India, is the team owner of the Sacramento Kings. Marc Lasry, who was born in Morocco, is a team owner of the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Under those circumstances, the term is increasingly considered racially insensitive. NBA owners will now be called “Governor of the team” and “alternate Governor.” 

The move has been lauded by some and widely criticized by others. In fact, some Black people seem to be split down the middle on whether or not they agree that changing the term owner is even necessary. Moreover, the word Governor really isn’t much better because it’s still associated with colonialism. 

Some media moguls, like legendary New York radio host, Mike Francesa, have called it overkill,  a serious “reach” if you will. 

WFAN Mike Francesa rips idea of the NBA ditching the term “Owner” 6/7/19

Here’s Mike Francesa opening up Friday’s show going on a rant against an idea brought up by NBA players of wanting to the ditch the term “Owner” for executives that hold a majority stake in the franchise due to implicit racial insensitivity.

Others, such as BIG3 baller Stephen Jackson have called it flat out stupid.

The commissioner’s comments are a direct response to a handful of stars, including Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, who said in an appearance last year on LeBron James’ HBO show “The Shop” that he finds the word offensive.

“You shouldn’t say, owner,” Green said. “[It should be called] CEO or Chairman. When you think of a basketball team … you think of the players that make that team.” 

When Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry was assaulted during the playoffs by Golden State investor Mark Stevens,  it only added fuel to the fire and the increasingly negative perception surrounding the word. 

The Philadelphia 76ers recently changed the title of their owners to managing partners, and Steve Ballmer is listed as chairman on the Los Angeles Clippers official website. Other teams will likely follow suit. 

“I don’t want to overreact to the term because, as I said earlier, people end up twisting themselves into knots avoiding the use of the word ‘owner,'” Silver said, via TMZ Sports. “But we moved away from that term years ago with the league… As I said, I don’t want to overreact … but I’m sensitive to it, and I think to the extent that teams are moving away from the term.”

It’s possible the NBA is overthinking this or trying to stay ahead of an issue that could become a tool of division at some point. 

Exavier Pope on Twitter

‘we moved away from that term years ago in the league.’ ‘We call our team owners ‘Governor of the team’ and ‘alternate Governor.'” – Now the players are “governed?” Just call them shareholders/stakeholders like other businesses. It’s not that hard. https://t.co/60NfNoSTSl

Since taking over the reins from David Stern in February of 2014, Commissioner Silver has been highly supportive of any racial or social issues that the players feel strongly about. He’s safely navigated the NBA through some socially-turbulent waters and worked with the players to find a resolution, rather than attempt to oppress, threaten or blackball them into submitting to something they are against.  

That’s why the NBA continues to lead all other sports in diversity and gender hiring. 

Racial And Gender Report Card

The 2019 National Basketball Association (NBA) Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC) was released this week and it confirmed the League’s continued leadership position in the sports industry with its commitment to inclusive racial and gender hiring practices.

Lapchick, the Director of The Institute  for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES or The Institute) at the University of Central Florida and primary author of the report, stated, “Based upon a thorough review of the data provided by the NBA, we find that the NBA continues to lead in men’s professional sport in racial hiring practices…continuing to be a leader with gender hiring practices amongst the other men’s professional sport leagues.” 

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida publishes the Racial and Gender Report Card to indicate areas of improvement, stagnation, and regression in the racial and gender composition of professional and college sports personnel and to contribute to the improvement of integration in front office and college athletics department positions. The 2019 NBA Racial and Gender Report Card follows the release of the Major League Baseball RGRC.

Grades Reflect The Work

The NBA received an A+ for racial hiring practices with a score of 98.7 points, which was the same score in 2018, and a B for gender hiring practices with 80.9 points, down from 81.1 points in 2018. 

The overall grade was an A with 89.8 points decreasing from 89.9 points last year. While there are slight decreases in some categories from last year, the NBA continues to be a frontrunner of diversity and inclusion amongst the professional sports landscape.

At the end of the day, Silver is truly a champion for social justice and skilled in conflict resolution. The way he sat down with LeBron and the players and supported their frustrations concerning the police-inflicted shootings of unarmed Black men and the subsequent Colin Kaepernick movement was a clear indication of Silver’s ability to be open-minded, progressive, attentive and humble.

LeBron James supports Eric Garner’s family with “I Can’t Breathe Shirt”

LeBron James on why he wore the ‘I can’t breathe’ t-shirt before the Cavs’ matchup against the Brooklyn Nets to support Eric Garner’s family.

The League’s overall diversity numbers reflect that. 

People of color working in team professional staff positions represented the largest increase of any category in the past five years (+12.4%). The NBA continues to have the most owners of color and the most female majority owners.

At the start of 2018-2019 NBA season, there were 10 head coaches of color which increased by one from the start of the 2017-2018 season. Overall, people of color represented 33.3 percent of all NBA head coaches. African-Americans represented 26.7 percent of all head coaches, Hispanic/Latino represented 3.3 percent, and Asian represented 3.3 percent.

Mark Tatum is the NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer. When he was appointed, he became the highest ranked African-American in the league office of any of the major American professional sports.

His lofty position reflects an NBA League Office that has the best record for people of color (37.6 percent, up 1.2 percentage points) in men’s professional sports. This season marked the highest ever percentage of people of color in these positions.

Running The Hoops Show

On the basketball side, a record five African-Americans served as the general manager at the beginning of the season:  

Koby Altman (Cleveland Cavaliers), Elton Brand (Philadelphia 76ers) Dell Demps (New Orleans Pelicans, fired), Scott Perry (New York Knicks) and James Jones (Phoenix Suns). 

The Fab Five which accounted for 26.1 percent of the total of general managers. This was an increase of 6.1 percent from the 2017-2018 season. 

The NY Knicks have the first All-Black front office in NBA history.

Breaking Barriers: Exploring Diversity in Sport and Business with the Knicks Front Office

Uploaded by New York Knicks on 2019-03-01.

Women In Motion 

The recent influx of women in NBA assistant coaching and executive positions can also be attributed to Silver’s proactive and responsive nature.  

While there has never been a Latino or female general manager, Swin Cash was recently named Vice President of Basketball Operations and Team Development for the New Orleans Pelicans and the percentage of women CEO/Presidents has increased three years in a row, as there are more women serving in this leadership position (seven) than all other professional sports leagues combined.

There were three women who were assistant coaches in 2018-2019, Becky Hammon (San Antonio Spurs), Jenny Boucek (Sacramento Kings) and Karen Stack Umlauf (Chicago Bulls). After the season ended, the Cleveland Cavaliers hired Lindsay Gottlieb.

Women held 25.4 percent of team vice president positions, an increase of 1.9 percentage points from the 2017-2018 season.

Martin Legalese on Twitter

@craigmelvin for today’s internet win. Highlighting an inspirational and necessary interview of the first black women CEO of a NBA team the @DallasMavs, Cynthia Marshall. Happy #BlackHistoryMonth

In the 2018-2019 season, Maureen Hanlon (Brooklyn Nets), Matina Kolokotronis (Sacramento Kings), Jeanie Buss (Los Angeles Lakers), Gayle Benson (New Orleans Pelicans), Gillian Zucker (LA Clippers), Julianna Hawn Holt (San Antonio Spurs), and Cynthia Marshall (Dallas Mavericks), held the role of either president or CEO for NBA franchises. This has been more than in any other of the men’s professional sports for each of the last four years.

NBA’s Many Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

According to Lapchick’s report, “The NBA and its players have a long history of working together on important societal issues. Launched in 2018 on Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, NBA Voices is the NBA’s initiative to address social injustice, promote inclusion, uplift voices and bridge divides into our communities. 

Kyle Lowry – NBA Voices

NBA Voices is the NBA’s initiative to address social injustice, promote inclusion, uplift voices and bridge divides in our communities. It represents another step in the league’s ongoing work to bring people together and use the game of basketball to demonstrate the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion.

It represents another step in the league’s ongoing work to bring people together and use the game of basketball to demonstrate the importance of equality, diversity, and inclusion…and to address issues of social and economic inequality, criminal justice reform and career development.”

The League’s sterling 2019 RGRC and the swiftness with which it eliminated the word owner from its vocabulary, is proof that the NBA values its players as people and understands that keeping them happy helps the league continue to flourish.  

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