A few weeks ago, as most of us probably know, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair came under fire for racially insensitive remarks. In a meeting with ten other NFL owners and thirteen current players, McNair remarked that they “can’t have the inmates running the prison” in reference to players’ decision to take a knee during the national anthem in protest of social injustices. In a league who’s population is around 70 percent African American, it does not take a genius to figure out why a 79 year old, white owner’s words were totally vile.
In response to Mcnair’s comments, Golden State Warriors Forward Draymond Green took to Instagram to express his anger with the situation. Green compared McNair’s words with those of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was forced the sell the team in 2014 after he directed racial remarks towards Magic Johnson. In particular, Green zoned in on the term “owner” and called for its removal. Green suggested that the term “chairman” be used in place of “owner”, claiming that the word owner “sets a bad precedent” and “gives one the wrong mindset”.
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was not pleased with Green’s comments and called for the star to publicly apologize to the NBA. Cuban was unhappy that Green suggested that the word owner be removed and accused Green of twisting the situation to turn it into something it was not. Cuban also offered Green the opportunity to take a few business classes, free of charge, to teach Green the difference between owning equity and owning people.
“For him to try to turn it into something it’s not is wrong,” Cuban told ESPN. “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…I guess it’s because he went to Michigan State and didn’t take any business classes, but you own equity. When you own a team, you own equity, shares of stock. That’s called ownership. Tell him if he wants to take classes at Indiana’s business school, I’ll even pay for his classes and we’ll help him learn that stuff.””
Cuban, who has developed a good rapport among NBA players and is one of the more charismatic owners in the league, seemed to take exception to the fact that Green was inferring a connection between NBA owners and slavery. Cuban, who is also a philanthropist, claimed that it was wrong to misrepresent professional sports owners who do everything in their power to help players and their families. In late September, Cuban lent his private jet to Maverick guard and Puerto Rican native JJ Barea to deliver relief supplies to the island.
“Don’t ask me. Ask anybody who’s ever played for me. Ask anybody who’s ever worked for me. I’m far from perfect, but that’s certainly not a connotation that you’re going to hear from anybody that I’ve ever been associated with… 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.”
While Draymond is known for being outspoken and has certainly made some questionable comments over the last few years, he does raise an interesting debate here. Should professional sports do away with the term owner because of its connotation with slavery? Or is Draymond reaching a bit and making an issue out of nothing? This one is tough, and we can definitely see both sides. It is certainly unfair to group all owners together because of the comments of one misguided owner. And Cuban’s track record speak for itself so we can understand his anger with Green’s comments. But maybe this is not even Cuban’s battle to fight, since it would be difficult for him to understand the affect that certain words have on African Americans. If enough players feel as if the term “owner” is offensive, the best thing to do is have a serious conversation regarding the future usage of the word. However this will play out, we can be sure that Draymond will probably not issue anyone an apology.
What’s your take?