The NBA undermined in its quest for exemplarity by the Sarver and Udoka cases

Los Angeles (AFP) – After the diplomatic incident with China in 2019, the players’ strike in the middle of Black Lives Matter in 2020, the vaccine standoff in 2021, the NBA is not immune to a new tumultuous return to business. Sarver and Udoka, who came to tarnish his image. .

The season begins on Tuesday, with two enticing posters: the Golden State Warriors, defending champions, against the LA Lakers, preceded by Boston, the last runner-up, against Philadelphia. They will mark the return of the self-proclaimed best basketball league in the world, which is growing in popularity.

In the United States, with 12.4 million viewers on average, the final, won in June by Golden State, accredited a rise in audiences, which had dropped below 10 in the two previous editions.

So everything would be fine under the NBA skies, if big clouds hadn’t accumulated this summer.

The biggest shock was the confirmation, by an independent commission of inquiry, of the racist, sexist and misogynistic behavior of Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, as denounced in an ESPN article dating from November 2021. Accusations supported by testimony of more than 70 employees franchisees.

However, if the latter has started the process of selling the club, it is because many voices have called for his departure, from LeBron James to Chris Paul who plays there, via the players’ union (NBPA) and the Reverend Al Sharpton, figure of the civil rights movement.

“Examination of conscience”

Faced with this outcome, criticism rained down on Adam Silver, for the sanction pronounced – one year of suspension accompanied by a fine of ten million dollars -, considered insufficient. The NBA boss, however, had not lacked a grip in 2014 by banning Donald Sterling for life and forcing him to sell the Clippers, for his racist remarks recorded on audio cassettes.

He struggled to justify this disparity of treatment, assuring that “the two situations were different” and that he had “access to information that the public does not know”, adding that an “owner has special rights in relation to a employee”.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver during a press conference ahead of the Abu Dhabi 2022 Games at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on October 6, 2022
NBA commissioner Adam Silver during a press conference ahead of the Abu Dhabi 2022 Games at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on October 6, 2022 KARIM SAHIBAFP/Archives

All misplaced arguments, although, according to the Bleacher Report, Silver worked behind the scenes to force Sarver to let go of the Suns.

“The NBA needs to do its introspection,” Reverend Sharpton chided her. “A new era is upon us where it is intolerable to consider black players as property. It is imperative that the league, teams, sponsors and new owner continue their commitment to eradicating racism, misogyny and hate. »

A big call to order, for the sports league yet considered the most progressive in the United States, which has been fighting against racial injustice for several decades, and which supported Black Lives Matter in the summer of 2020, allowing players to hit in the middle. play-offs.

Silver had found the words, helped by Michael Jordan, to convince them to return to the game despite the anger resulting from police violence against the black population, promising more commitment.

Dull picture

Perceived, among others for these reasons, as the best manager of all professional sports, the commissioner of the NBA has made few missteps since taking office.

In 2019, he was criticized for his hasty apology to China, furious at the tweet of support for the Hong Kong protesters, posted by Daryl Morey, general manager of the Rockets. But he had made up for it by refusing, in the name of freedom of expression, to sanction him, despite pressure from Beijing, which had then severed important commercial ties.

He was the first, in March 2020, to have the lucidity to suspend the championship, from the first case of Covid identified in the NBA. A decision immediately followed by the other sports leagues. But he failed to obtain the desired 100% vaccination, some players refusing to submit to it, including Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn), who paid the price for many months.

Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka during Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Boston on June 10, 2022
Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka during Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Boston on June 10, 2022 ELSA GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/Archives

Finally, even if Silver has no role in this story, the case of Ime Udoka – the Celtics coach suspended for a year by his managers for having had an “inappropriate” intimate relationship whose contours have remained unclear, with a employee of the club-, came to tarnish the image of his league a little more. Which would also have happened had winger Miles Bridges (Hornets) been charged on suspicion of punching his wife in front of their children.

Racism, sexism, domestic violence… so many troubled waters in the not so calm river of the NBA.

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