A number of NBA teams are reportedly seeking to drop the term “owner” to describe the person or group of people who pay for and ultimately manage professional basketball teams, in favor of terms that are less “racially insensitive.”
TMZ Sports reports that two teams have already renamed their ownership and the league is looking at possibilities for renaming franchise executives in a way that’s more respectful to players. The Philadelphia 76ers recently rebranded their owners as “managing partners,” and the Los Angeles Clippers now call their majority stakeholder a “chairman.”
The term owner, TMZ says, is actually colloquial. The NBA, which says it isn’t pressuring league executives to find a better way to describe themselves, refers to “owners” as “governors,” and the collection of NBA owners as the “Board of Governors” of the National Basketball Association.
The move comes in response to comments made last year by Golden State Warrior, Draymond Green, who told the cast of HBO’s sports show, “The Shop,” that he believed the term “owner” was racially insensitive, since it implied league executives actually owned individual players rather than stakes or shares in NBA teams.
“You shouldn’t say owner,” Green told the panel, suggesting that a title like CEO made more sense. “When you think of a basketball team, nobody thinks of the f—in’ Golden State Warriors and think of that damn bridge. They think of the players that make that team… you don’t even know what the f— [the bridge] is called.”
Commentator Jon Stewart agreed, adding, “When your product is purely the labor of people, then owner sounds like something that is of a feudal nature.”
Green also mentioned the issue to reporters in 2017, according to CBS News, telling media that the complaint may seem small but a change would be meaningful.
“Very rarely do we take the time to rethink something and say, ‘Maybe that’s not the way. Just because someone was taught that 100 years ago doesn’t make that the right thing today,” Green said. “And so, when you look at the word ‘owner,’ it really dates back to slavery. The word ‘owner,’ ‘master’—it dates back to slavery… we just took the words and we continued to put it to use.”
Not everyone supports the change, though. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban addressed Green’s concerns specifically, noting that “owner” was an apt description, given that the person referred to by the term actually does own the team and is tasked with paying the team’s bills rather than making team management decisions, the way a CEO might.
The connection to slavery, Cuban added, is an invention, and deliberately downplays the roles owners have in caring for team members and their families.
“For him to try to turn it into something it’s not is wrong,” Cuban told ESPN according to CBS. “He owes the NBA an apology. I think he does, because to try to create some connotation that owning equity in a company that you busted your ass for is the equivalent of ownership in terms of people, that’s just wrong. That’s just wrong in every which way.”
“People who read that message and misinterpret it—make it seem like we don’t do everything possible to help our players succeed and don’t care about their families and don’t care about their lives, like hopefully we do for all of our employees—that’s just wrong,” Cuban added.