No (Adam) Silver Lining

Temporarily buried is the narrative of Adam Silver, the moral one. On the side of the disenfranchised, Silver, the NBA Commissioner,  once took on the powerful and hitched his commissioner-ship to issues of justice. But his image as a man of conscience has been grounded to a swift half with his decision, affirmed by the NBA Board of Governors, to reinstate the eligibility of Charlotte to host the All-Star game in 2019. (Los Angeles has the All-Star game in 2018). Charlotte was due to host the game this year but House Bill 2 which lifted all anti-discrimination protections against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered, and bars compensation for said discrimination, created a hostile climate not just for the NBA, but for other billion dollar corporations with a diverse workforce.

Last summer, Silver, in good conscience, could not allow his exhibition game to be tainted by the perception and reality that he, and his league, were affirming discrimination. So he pulled the All-Star game, relocated it to New Orleans. Now he has reversed course because House Bill 2 was partially repealed. Peculiarly, he didn’t seem to read the new bill which revokes the same anti-discrimination protections for LGBT that he found offensive a year ago. Nothing has changed in North Carolina. Except the NBA is back.

It’s been three years since Adam Silver was the blinking light in the Donald Sterling tempest storm; now he is just an ordinary man. All ordinary men concern themselves with issues of money as opposed to the legacy of principle. Silver isn’t to blame because he caved and was not as extraordinary as he wanted us to believe he was. Okay, he fell short. Most men do. Frankly, the NBA is the same league that tolerated racist Sterling for two decades by looking away, enabling his crimes, and pretending none of it mattered because the Billionaires Boys Club were not the victims of Sterling’s bias.

All politics are local. You get riled up with what you feel strongly about, what hits you in the gut. And the wallet.

Donald Sterling was wrecking the playoffs of 2014, particularly the Warriors/Clippers series, one that would go 7 games. Silver did what he was supposed to do, he ran Sterling out. He did what he was supposed to do two years later, he pulled Charlotte from the All-Star game, despite it being a going home present for league star Steph Curry. So it’s easy now. He created capital. He can look the other way.

“We believe that an All-Star game in Charlotte could be a powerful way to dispaly our values of equality and inclusion and by engaging even more deeply in North Carolina, we can be part of a larger national effort toward securing LGBT equality.”

History is filled with pages upon pages of good intentions by sports league men who enabled discrimination by doing nothing, or worse, justifying and normalizing the behavior of the perpetrators. In fact, the last time a professional sports league was a force for equality on a macro scale was in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color line in baseball. And even then it took 12 years for the Boston Red Sox, to add a black player. So for Silver to put his eggs in the three days in Charlotte is going to impact history basket is fallacious reasoning. Perhaps Charlotte will be tolerant when it has to be but when the NBA packs up Charlotte will revert to norm, actively aggressive in discriminatory practices.

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Silver went on to say many feel the repeal bill is not enough. That’s an understatement. Enough would be a step up. An upgrade.The repeal bill is not anything at all. The state of North Carolina can legally discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, withhold services, deny access and privileges not to mention food, lodging, housing, transportation. The ability to hold those in power accountable for their bias has been legislated away.

House Bill 2 cost the state of North Carolina billions in lost revenue and cost the former governor his job. North Carolina needed some kind of window dressing and the NBA fell for it.

Silver has a plan in place to make the city of Charlotte adhere to anti-discrimination policies of the NBA but the NBA has no jurisdiction in the state of North Carolina. The NBA has to abide by North Carolina’s laws, not the reverse. Otherwise, the NBA would get special privileges while the rest of North Carolina has to suffer. That is not equal protection under the law as stated in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

Silver even admitted “the fundamental issues have not been resolved.” So what is this all about then?

Money. Money. Money.


photo via llananba