Adam Silver Is Just An NBA Employee

The real power in sports rests with owners not a commissioner.

One of the more laughable aspects of sports journalism is the annual rankings of the most powerful people in American sports. The commissioners of the major sports leagues and college conferences are always among the top of the list. But in reality, all commissioners are only as powerful as their bosses allow them. Owners call the shots in pro sports and college and university presidents or chancellors are in charge in that business. National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver reminded the public that he works for owners, rather governors, like the Phoenix Suns’ Robert Sarver. The NBA suspended Sarver for a year and fined him $10 million, which seems to be the standard for league’s in handing out punishment to bad actors like Sarver or in the National Football League’s case, a bad actor like the Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder.

Earlier this year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told a Congressional panel looking into complaints against Snyder about an alleged team hostile work environment that he could not throw Snyder out of the NFL ownership group. Silver said he could not throw Sarver out of the NBA or out of the Women’s National Basketball Association. Sarver owns, rather is the governor, of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.  Silver said, “I don’t have the right to take away his team. I don’t want to rest on that legal point because of course there could be a process to take away someone’s team in this league. It’s very involved, and I ultimately made the decision that it didn’t rise to that level. But, to me, the consequences are severe here on Mr. Sarver.” Sarver will be back. Silver also brought up another point. “When you actually own a team, it’s just a very different proposition.” Sarver is one of Silver’s 30 bosses.

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