NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s job isn’t (always) to win the press conference.
In many ways, Silver didn’t win the presser when he announced Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver’s one-year suspension and $10 million fine following a report. detailing Sarver’s repugnant conduct in the workplace, which included racist and sexist language, bullying and pornographic emails sent to co-workers. .
But nothing in Silver’s job description says anything about press conferences. Of course, it’s a bonus when the league’s executive face does it.
In Article 24 of the Constitution and Bylaws of the National Basketball Association, under the heading “Authority and Duties of Commissioner”, the second sentence reads: “The Commissioner shall assume the duties of the Chief Executive Officer of the League and will be responsible for protecting the integrity of the game of professional basketball and preserving public confidence in the League.”
While many wanted a tougher punishment for Sarver — and on the face of it, it might have had more pizzazz — Silver was right when he said he didn’t have the power to force Sarver to sell the team. In that same laborious but informative tome of constitution and bylaws, the process for terminating an owner is detailed, and while Silver can get the ball rolling, it’s the owners who make the final call and it takes a three-quarters vote. to evict a landlord.
WHAT WE KNOW: Suns, misconduct by Mercury owner Robert Sarver results in fine and suspension
NBA COMMISSIONER: Robert Sarver and Donald Sterling’s ‘very different’ cases
AFTER: LeBron and Chris Paul slam Sarver’s lenient punishment
The commissioner’s job is complex and full of nuances and not always understood as the fact that Silver is working for the owners. He must appease owners, players and fans, navigate improvements in basketball operations, financial security and league issues. Its authority, although important, is not unlimited.
Silver has stumbled into the presser – as if praising Sarver’s past good deeds – but the commissioner is playing the long game. Of the many compliments one can give, Silver, Smart is at or near the top of the list.
It may look like a game of checkers, but Silver is engaged in a strategic process. Sometimes a wrecking ball is needed to start the project. It takes fine art to finish the job.
Silver’s specific language to describe Sarver’s actions – indefensible, saddened, discouraged – and the public release of the independent investigation laid the groundwork for Sarver’s eventual sale of the team. It’s the outcome the league and its key stakeholders should want if they’re smart.
Sarver’s world within the NBA and WNBA began to crumble with the report’s punishment and despicable details.
It didn’t stop there and won’t stop there.
LeBron James, the league’s most influential player, tweeted to his 52.2 million followers: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no place in this league for that kind of thing. behavior. I love this league and deeply respect our leadership. But that’s not fair. There is no place for misogyny, sexism and racism in any workplace.
Phoenix Suns goaltender Chris Paul, who could help the team win a championship this season, a championship Sarver couldn’t play in due to suspension, tweeted: “I’m of the opinion that penalties don’t haven’t really responded to this we can all agree it was atrocious behavior.
Suns partial owner Jahm Najafi, who a year ago was the franchise’s second largest shareholder behind Sarver’s roughly 35% stake, released a statement calling for Sarver’s resignation.
PayPal CEO and chairman Dan Schulman said his company would not continue as the team’s shirt sponsor if Sarver remained involved with the team after his suspension.
NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio said, “Mr. Sarver should never be in a leadership position in our league again.
The pressure is mounting. Sarver cannot survive in a world where he is not wanted, and no one (well, most people) wants to be in an environment where he is not welcome.
The more people who read the report, including players, fans, sponsors and express their outrage, the more it pushes Sarver into an untenable situation. Selling his shares becomes the only viable option. Of course, Sarver walks away with a big ROI in this scenario.
But that doesn’t happen overnight. If you look back at the recent “forced” sales of professional sports franchises due to offensive owners, the leagues themselves did not force the sale. While the NBA put in place measures to remove Donald Sterling as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, the owners never voted (though I’m sure Silver knew the vote count), and Sterling’s wife , Shelly, forced her husband to sell.
In the recent situation with the Atlanta Dream where then-owner Kelly Loeffler’s opinions didn’t align with the players or the league, she wasn’t forced by the WNBA to sell. She did it when she was persona non grata.
When former Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson’s emails went public in 2014, the NBA didn’t sell him. The pressure to sell pushed him to sell.
NFL owners never voted to oust Jerry Richardson. After his mischief at work – similar to Sarver’s – he put the Carolina Panthers up for sale.
There’s a reason leagues and owners avoid the nuclear option. First, they don’t want to be involved in the mess of voting against a co-owner. Self-preservation is a strong motivator when one day they might be on the wrong side.
But they also don’t want to get into a legal maze of lawsuits, countersuits, discoveries, motions that could take years to resolve. What if the owners vote to oust Sterling and it turns into a legal drama where Sterling continues to own the teams for years?
These are strategic decisions, and Sarver’s days as an NBA and WNBA team owner are fewer than more.