NBA owners prevented Adam Silver from holding Robert Sarver accountable

NBA owners prevented Adam Silver from holding Robert Sarver accountable

Wednesday afternoon, Adam Silver held a press conference to answer for a punishment he knew was insufficient for Robert Sarver’s 18-year (at least) history of racism, sexism, and the generally unacceptable workplace environment he cultivated. He answered those questions and is now taking criticism on behalf of the man whose indecency he implicitly accepted.

The questions Silver stumbled through were coming since the NBA initiated its review of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury organizations yet Silver responded with all the tact and preparedness of an elementary school student asked to speak about The Illiad.

Even worse: Silver’s lone moment of honesty during that press conference — in which he said governors are held to a different level of accountability than every other NBA and team employee — was eventually re-spun by league spokesman Mike Bass.

Here’s Silver’s quote:

“I want to say, you alluded to it, Howard, that there are particular rights here of someone who owns an NBA team as opposed to somebody who is an employee.”

And here’s Bass’ attempted tweak:

“Commission Silver’s answer to a question about the rights of business owners did not mean to suggest that NBA players, team employees, and team owners are not held to the same standard of appropriate conduct. They absolutely are.”

So is he saying an NBA employee won’t be fired for saying and doing the indefensible things Sarver did? That’s not a place I’d want to work.

(Hilariously, Bass, the lead spokesperson for the NBA, said “owners” rather than current league-speak “governors,” as a perfect encapsulation of everything going on with Sarver.)

Of course, the wealthiest people in the sport are held to a lower standard than everyone else. The NBA operates in America, after all. As astonishing as it was to hear Silver say so in such definite terms, that’s just the reality, no matter how vociferously Mike Bass tries to make us forget what Silver said.

The lone retort one could have before Silver’s presser was that the NBA punished Sarver to the absolute furthest extent that it could. Except, well, according to Silver, that is not actually the case.

“I had the option to go longer. I landed on one year. I will say it’s the second-longest suspension in the history of our league, just to put it in some sort of context,” Silver said.

Ron Artest holds the longest suspension in NBA history with 86 games and in the year’s since, he’s shown growth and remorse for the actions that landed him that regrettable record. Sarver, whose suspension could technically exceed that length if the Suns make the playoffs and don’t get swept in the first round, has arguably gotten worse over the years as it pertains to his view of minorities and women.

Most offensive of all Silver’s statements Wednesday, though, was his repeated proclamations that he was shocked to find out about Sarver’s racist and sexist tendencies, when there is a documented email from 2016 to the league from Sarver (noted in the investigation report available here) in which he admitted to using the n-word in a way he had been repeatedly warned against dating back to 2004.

So either Silver legitimately didn’t know about the email, showcasing a legitimately shocking lack of oversight on his part, or he actively ignored the innumerable signs that pointed in neon lights to Sarver’s racism.

How would Silver, one of the most prepared human beings on the face of the planet, have no idea how to handle this situation when he’s done exactly that with Donald Sterling for tendencies more similar than different than what is alleged against Sarver? For the answer, you need look no further than his bosses.

At the time, Silver was happy to take a victory lap for kicking out noted racist Donald Sterling as a loud statement from the league that his behavior would not be tolerated. Take that, billionaires.

Except, as Silver himself stated Wednesday, the NBA will tolerate some of that behavior, so long as the other 29 owners, sorry governors, don’t hate the person responsible for that behavior and sponsors don’t demand that own-… governor be removed.

Silver would love to have fans think he’s different than Roger Goodell, Rob Manfred or Gary Bettman. For a while, NBA fans pretended he could actually make that case having ousted Sterling. In reality, forcing Sterling to sell was just another errand owners were asking Silver to run. Such a case can no longer be made after Wednesday though. At the end of the day, he’s just another stooge paid tens of millions of {dollars} to stand as a meat shield for the league’s billionaires.

While it’s easy to pound the table and yell about Silver being the latest person to turn in his morals for millions, billionaires should not skate for making that offer in the first place.

Sarver’s peers are the actual reason he still owns the Suns and Mercury. Notably, Mark Cuban decried the precedent the NBA would be sending by holding Sterling ultimately accountable for his actions. What he didn’t think of at the time apparently was that the NBA could just ignore that precedent.

Through legalese, Silver stood by the report that, despite several examples that would point to the contrary, there was no animus directed toward minorities or women. Repeated use of the n-word and allegedly taking a female employee off a project because of her pregnancy apparently can’t showcase such animus unless caught on video, evidently.

The NBA should have called for a governors vote on Sarver. It should have forced those owners to put their name on their implicit support of his racism and sexism for the sake of them not being held accountable for their own bad behavior if or when it comes to light.

The next step, unfortunately, will be for players to voice their displeasure and eventually for sponsors to apply pressure. Until then, and absolutely no sooner, Sarver will not actually be held accountable, and certainly not by Adam Silver, just another employee paid handsomely to deal with and maintain a system that allows billionaires to operate however they please.

About the Author: camille r mercer

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