Adam Silver: NBA Commissioner Leads The Nation's Most Progressive Sports League

Jeffrey Grimm

Adam Silver, NBA's commissioner, has continued the upward trajectory of progressive action within his organization. When many leaders of sports tend to shy away from such topics as social issues and race, Silver isn't afraid to lean into these issues.

Our current political climate has brought upon a set of new challenges while we transition from a White House consisting of our first black president to a President-elect that uses fear of race and culture as a platform. There have been NBA players who have voiced the possibility of declining a White House invitation if they happen to win a championship. Silver had his own thoughts on the issue.

To me, if a player were to choose not to go to the White House, whether they were choosing not to go to the current White House or a future White House, my response would be: 'That's a lost opportunity, because that's an opportunity that most citizens who have a political point of view would kill for — the opportunity to directly tell the president of the United States how they feel about an issue.

Many would expect dismay from a commissioner for not accepting an invitation to the White House, but Silver's take provides a different perspective than one would conventionally think. His disappointment lies within the lost opportunity to confront the leader of our country as opposed to the perceived slight declining an invitation would render.

One of Silver's biggest tests in regards to social issues came almost immediately after he was appointed commissioner of the league. A leaked tape of Donald Sterling, the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, provided a racially charged rant directed towards a female friend of his. This dialogue created a stir throughout the Clippers organization and the league.

Adam Silver devised a punishment harsher than one could have expected as he banned Sterling from the league for life. This could have possibly been viewed as a 'lifetime achievement award' for Sterling, as he had done so much worse in the past. Most notably, he participated in a wide range of housing discrimination tactics on the real estate properties he owned. Adam Silver was not in charge during those times, but it is an important distinction in the way he has conducted himself to lesser crimes than the egregious acts observed by his predecessor.

Silver seems to fully understand the nuanced history and makeup of his league. Historically, the NBA has been built upon the backs of their black athletes. It is important that he is in tune with their experiences outside the court.

"I do feel a particular obligation to focus on the African-American community in that we have a league that is roughly 75 percent African-American. And I feel part of the obligation comes from the history of this league that I've inherited."

Adam Silver's NBA has become a focal point of our Christmas day traditions. It is important to also note his understanding of the NBA landscape. As we experience frayed relations within our borders, Silver is allowing the empowerment of his players to speak out. For a country so enveloped by sports, having our sports stars speak plainly about their social concerns helps bring an even bigger audience to the plight of our minorities. Adam Silver's recognition of this should be commended.

[Featured Image by Frank Franklin II/AP Images]

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