Adam Silver is putting himself in a world of his own
Adam Silver is without a doubt the most impactful and important commissioner in the world of major North American sports.
His contributions to the sports world are only matched by the ideals he defends. Silver has managed to create a brand that cares and respects the ideologies of most of its fans, advocating for both freedom from racial prejudice and for the continual acceptance of the LGBT community. Roger Goodell of the NFL, Gary Bettman of the NHL, and Rob Manfred of the MLB combined have yet to make a similar impact on their respective sports.
There is probably no commissioner who is hated more than Bettman who has become a part of a sacred tradition – being booed by fans in every arena in the NHL. This occurs every time he gives a speech, presents the Stanley Cup, or even when he announces the opening of the draft.
Check out this video of Bettman being booed in Chicago in 2013.
This greatly contrasts the perception of Silver, who is constantly seen in arenas around the NBA. He does not favour large markets like Los Angeles or New York, rather he celebrates the spirit of the NBA. He has continued the financial growth in the league as well, while creating a socially conscious sporting organization. In 2014, he secured a new TV deal that earns the NBA 2.6 billion per season, which totals 24 billion over the course of the deal.
Besides his major contributions to the financial arena of sports he has honestly used the NBA’s platform to effect change.
His first major decision came in the case against former Clippers owner Donald Sterling. A conversation between Sterling and his girlfriend surfaced where he criticized her for taking photos with “minorities”.
Listen to the full conversation below.
When the conversation surfaced the NBA erupted. Clippers players like Chris Paul threatened to boycott games. The whole basketball world waited in anticipation to see what the newly minted commissioner would do. What followed was the most dramatic penalty given in North American sports history. Sterling was banned for life from the NBA, was fined $2.5 million, and he would be forced to sell the team if three-fourths of the NBA’s owners voted for the sale of the team. Silver had established himself as a commissioner that the players could respect. This was evident when Chris Paul said “We appreciate the strong leadership from Commissioner Silver and he has our full support.”
Silver’s next move came when Rajon Rondo called an openly gay referee a “faggot”. Rondo directed anti-gay slurs towards Bill Kennedy, though it remained unclear whether he was aware of the official’s sexuality. Silver responded by suspending Rondo for one game, believing it would be more impactful than monetary punishment. Silver was quoted saying that “The step from a financial penalty to a suspension, to me, was one that we knew would attract attention.”
That leads us to Silver’s recent decision to move the 2017 NBA All-Star Game from Charlotte, due to the anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina. It is another unprecedented move that illustrates Silver and the NBA are serious about their beliefs.
This is a move that opens the NBA to a larger audience and ultimately leads to more financial gain. But, no matter the intentions, no one could argue with the message Silver is sending. He is asserting that if you do not align with the new NBA values which promote equality for all people, then the NBA will move forward without you.
The city of Charlotte and the Hornets are the losers in all of this. They are unable to control the situation, having no impact in the politics in their state. Thankfully, Silver understood this and offered them the opportunity to host the All Star Game in 2019. Obviously, it would be pending on the change of the current legislation.
Adam Silver has put the sports world on notice. He is one of the few commissioners that truly reflect the values of 2016 and accurately aligns with the desires of the players. He has garnered respect across the world and is renowned as true icon in North American sports. He understands the power he has to affect change and he is not afraid to make traditionally controversial decisions. In a world where so few are willing to speak out against injustice for fear of public backlash, it is comforting to find a man unabashedly promoting values of equality at the helm of the NBA.