Both the NBA and NFL have seen a drop in TV ratings during the 2020 season. Now, Adam Silver is pushing back against people who theorized that players taking a stand on social issues caused the lower ratings.
The NBA commissioner, in an interview with GQ, said there is no data to support such a claim. Moreover, he believes it players speaking their minds helped the league gain fans.
The league saw some of its lowest ratings ever for the recent NBA Finals, NBC Sports reported. That’s in spite of the fact that the Finals featured the LA Lakers and LeBron James, arguably the league’s biggest star since Michael Jordan. James, 35, went on to win his fourth title, topping the Miami Heat.
Many, including President Donald Trump, speculated that the players’ vocal stance on Black Lives Matter and other political issues caused the drop in ratings. But Silver isn’t buying that argument.
“Now, some people might suggest that the words Black Lives Matter are causing massive amounts of people to tune out the NBA,” Silver said, according to Fansided.com. “There’s absolutely no data to support that. And in fact, as I said, there’s no doubt there are some people—and whether or not they were truly our fans, to begin with, is unclear—who have become further engaged with the league because they believe in our players and they believe in the positions they’ve taken, even if they don’t agree with everything they say. They respect their right to speak out on issues that are important to them.”
The reason fewer fans are watching this year is complicated, experts have said. It’s likely because of a combination of several factors. Those include people dropping cable subscriptions, the coronavirus, and competition from other sports since the league started late this season.
Adam Silver Says Critics Overlooked the Obvious
Sports don’t take place in a vacuum. Players get the same news as the rest of the world. So, it’s expected that they would also be as outraged as the millions who took to the streets to protest social justice issues, Silver said. Players and teams decided that if they were going to play, they would make a statement.
Teams wore Black Lives Matter patches on their jerseys and the league wrote the words on the court. Players became outspoken critics of political leaders and pushed people to register to vote.
And while many people were in favor of players using their position to advocate for social change, others wanted a respite from the politics of the day. They wanted sports to stay a refuge from the divisiveness that has gripped the country.
But Silver said the shut up and dribble crowd missed an obvious point: athletes have always been political.
“… Long before there was even a movement called Black Lives Matter, there was the NBA,” he said. “There was Bill Russell, there was Oscar Robertson and Wayne Embry and Lenny Wilkens and all these great Black leaders within the league.”
Though Adam Silver said he does sympathize with those who just want to watch a game. That’s why next season, which starts on Dec. 22, fans shouldn’t expect big displays for social change on the court, NBC sports said. But players may still remain vocal on the issues.
“… My sense is there will be somewhat a sort of return to normalcy, that those messages will largely be left to be delivered off the floor,” he said. “And I understand those people who are saying, ‘I’m on your side, but I want to watch a basketball game.'”