Do NBA Owners Support the Players Racial Equality Message?

Since the re-start of sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA has been at the forefront of the racial justice movement in the United States, in a variety of ways.

  • The Milwaukee Bucks led a player boycott prior to their playoff game versus Orlando Magic on August 26th, which filtered into other sports – teams in MLB, MLS, WNBA all boycotted games. Even the world’s highest paid female athlete, tennis player Naomi Osaka, planned to withdraw from her semifinal match of the Western & Southern Open (ultimately, Osaka played the following day after the WTA & USTA agreed to postpone all matches, in order to bring attention to racial injustice).
  • The NBA had “Black Lives Matters” prominently displayed at center court for all to see.
  • Players had messages of social and racial justice on the back of their jerseys.
  • Many franchises have committed to turning their arenas into polling stations for the upcoming US Presidential election.
  • Official team Twitter accounts sent messaging out to support the cause.

And while the players have been outspoken about racial inequality, the same cannot be said for the group of owners. Which begs the question – do the NBA team owners (by and large, comprised of ultra-wealthy, white, men) support their players (by and large, comprised of wealthy, black, men)? There is no doubt that on the surface they have committed to change, as the NBA Board of Governors committed $300M over 10 years towards economic empowerment in the Black community. And while that sounds well and good, 30 teams, over 10 years, equates to $1M per team each year. Not exactly earth shattering stuff for uber-wealthy owners. Certain players in the NBPA, like Vice-President Andre Iguodala, are not impressed

This leaves us with a couple of questions. 

  1. How are some NBA owners making their money?
  2. Which political parties/candidates are they donating their money to?

One of the most interesting examples is Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores, who owns Securus – the largest prison phone service in the country. On October 9th, activists were successful in pushing him out as a Board of Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and now pressure is mounting on the NBA to do something about this type of owner. Given its history with other owners (i.e. Donald Sterling), we may see something take place in the near future in the Motor City.

What is perhaps more interesting are the political donations of the group as a whole. Josh Gonzalez, of The Ringer, recently wrote a compelling article about the lack of progressive-leaning owners in the NBA, and how they have mostly donated towards Republic politicians – the party of President Donald Trump. President Trump has made multiple statements about sports and the racial justice movement, as seen here, here and hereMany NBA owners directly support both the Republican Party and President Trump

If the NBA owners mostly support the Republican party in its current form, what does that say about the NBA’s overall message about racial equality? Can the NBA be serious about its fight for racial equality when there are owners that support President Trump? 

Although the longest season in NBA history just finished, and the next season seems to be at least 4+ months away, there is still plenty of action to come.

Photo Credit: Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire