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Adam Silver sat down for an interview with Rachel Nichols on NBA Countdown earlier this week and indicated that the social justice messaging that currently displayed on the courts and the backs of players’ jerseys will be “largely left off the floor” next season:
Here is the relevant question and answer:
Rachel Nichols: The NBA has certainly been the most visible billion-dollar organization championing social justice and civil rights. As you noted in your press conference the other day, though, that has not been universally popular. How committed are you to being that going forward?
Adam Silver: We’re completely committed to standing for social justice and racial equality and that’s been the case going back decades. It’s part of the DNA of this league. How it gets manifested is something we’re gonna have to sit down with the players and discuss for next season. I would say, in terms of the messages you see on the court and our jerseys, this was an extraordinary moment in time when we began these discussions with the players and what we all lived through this summer. My sense is there’ll be somewhat a return to normalcy, that those messages will largely be left to be delivered off the floor.
And I understand those people who are saying ‘I’m on your side, but I want to watch a basketball game.’
The ratings have fallen precipitously throughout the playoffs and especially during the NBA Finals. It’s true that the NBA is out of season, other out-of-season sports like hockey and horse racing are down a lot too, and it’s weird with no fans in the stands. The NBA is competing against football games and MLB playoffs when it normally has national sports fans’ attention mostly to themselves, and it’s a miracle how seamlessly they pulled off the bubble for their fans and TV partners.
On the other hand, the league’s biggest star, LeBron James, and sexiest franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers, are setting one all-time low after another after another for NBA Finals viewership.
Consequently, this is as close to a direct acknowledgement from the NBA Commissioner as you’ll ever see that embedding the social justice advocacy directly into the on-court product hurt the viewership. What proportion you want to assign to that phenomenon can be a matter of opinion and conjecture. You can’t deny, after watching that interview, that Silver believes it has contributed to the decline.