I asked NBA commissioner what was the league responsibilities in dealing with the narrative of “shut and dribble” and the racial tensions in this country.
Here is what he had to say to the question that I asked.
Q. Kevin Durant and LeBron James and others had very strong comments to the “shut up and dribble” comments that came from FOX News. What is the league’s responsibility and how can they continue to get rid of the narrative that they’re just dumb jocks, and specifically in LeBron’s case, that he’s an African-American athlete that isn’t intelligent enough to talk about social issues and should just shut up and entertain people?
Well, let me begin by saying I’m incredibly proud of our players for using the platform they have as players in the NBA and on social media to speak out on issues that are important to them. And I was proud of LeBron and Kevin’s response to the comments that were made about them.
I think even when I hear it even related to the one-and- done issue when people say that the one-and-done players shouldn’t be in college because they don’t care about an education I think is incredibly unfair to them. Just because they have enormous opportunity in the way maybe Bill Gates did or Mark Zuckerberg to create enormous wealth for themselves and their families certainly doesn’t mean they don’t care about an education. Many of them go on to continue to educate themselves, whether through going back to school in the summer, taking courses, doing things post-playing career. So it frustrates me.
I should also say it’s not lost on me or anybody in this room that there is enormous amount of racial tension in this country, enormous amount of social injustice, and I do see a role for this league in addressing those issues.
Essentially, I know everybody can see, but Bill Russell happens to be sitting here at this press conference, and your question sort of reminds me of the role that players like Bill Russell have played historically in speaking out on important issues.
It’s interesting. Here we are in L.A., and, Bill, you probably remember this, but the first All-Star Game that took place in Los Angeles was in 1963. You were the MVP, and then of course the Celtics went on to win a championship that year. But maybe even more importantly, then, in the summer of 1963 you stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when Dr. King gave his “I have a dream” speech.
So to me there is this direct through-line from players like Bill Russell, here it was roughly 55 years ago, to LeBron and Kevin Durant speaking out today on issues that are important to them.
So as I’ve said before, to me as Commissioner of the NBA, this is a legacy of important work that I’ve inherited, that I continue to encourage, and it doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with everything that’s said at any given moment, but the fact that these players are not just basketball players, they’re multi-dimensional, they care about their communities, and they care about what’s happening in their country. They then care enough to speak out, and sometimes at great risk to themselves because it’s not lost on them that there are some people who will disagree with them. Social media is full of hate as well.
So I just conclude by saying I’m really proud of them.
Adam Silver is a very good commissioner, we might not always agree on everything he does, but he legitimately seems to care about the players and fighting against social injustice.