NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said President Donald Trump’s reportedly vulgar comment on immigration “is discouraging” but vowed to continue the work of the NBA and NBPA in creating real change in communities.
Silver spoke to an outraged Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, Silver showed support.
“I certainly understand how upset he is as an immigrant to this country and Canada,” Silver said of Ujiri (h/t ESPN).
“I think for him, someone who does so much in his daily life to improve the life of Africans through his personal foundation, through our Basketball Without Borders program, it is discouraging. But Masai will not in any way be deterred from the work he is doing just as the league won’t be.”
The comments drew backlash and anger for the President who responded to questions of being racist on Sunday by saying; “No. No, I am not a racist,” President Trump responded. “I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.”
After an emotional tour of the National Civil Rights Museum along with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Silver spoke about the anger that Trump incited with his comments, but also said that the 50th anniversary of King’s death is “an impetus to continue pushing forward” toward impacting social injustice.
“I think for both Michele and me, it is a reminder and an impetus to continue pushing forward with the kind of things that we can do together as a league,” Silver said.
Silver said that both he and Michele left the tour feeling more committed to aiding players trying to make a difference in communities with youth and city officials and law enforcement.
“Sports continue to be a unique opportunity to unite people, and it is a place where there is a rare sense of equality. Certainly, we are proud that within the NBA, you are judged by your performance on the floor, regardless of your background, nationality or ethnicity. … To me, it is also reinforcement of how important it is that we stay the course in terms of the programs that this league has been operating for decades and new programs like NBA Voices that we are beginning this week.”
“I tend to be an optimist,” Silver also said. “Certainly, as I am reminded of the history of this country, much of it which took place during my lifetime, there has been tremendous progress, there is no question about it. Having said that, we have a long way to go.”
Today the league launched a new initiative called NBA Voices, along with a new interactive webpage, voices.nba.com, intended to address social injustice and promote inclusion, diversity and equality.
“Since our players stood up and in essence there was a call to action by the NBA family, we are incredibly proud that we have executed over 200 events in communities around the country in every NBA city,” Silver stated.
“With the case of NBA Voices, we recognize that access to that platform was important to our fans. It was really in response to our fans saying to us, Where do we go to learn more about what it is that you are doing, and what we can do?”
Silver also shared his thoughts of sharing the experience with Roberts and the impression it left on them.
“With all that is going on in our country and the world, it is a reminder to us that we can be such a force for good, both positive messages and actions for a diverse group of fans and people and where in the modern NBA, not just in terms of diversity and race but diversity of ethnicity and nationality in a league that is 25 percent non-American.
“I think as she and I were walking together and reading the words of Martin Luther King and the concept behind the movement, it makes us that much more aware here in 2018 of how much we can still contribute to ensuring that those weren’t just words but that there are opportunities for our players and our teams to continue doing those things that are critically important in society moving forward.”