Silver Lining: NBA Commissioner Not In Jeopardy Despite Anti-Protest Memo

The NBA and Adam Silver released a memo to all teams that stated everyone will stand for the anthem. They were, however, encouraged to take political action to different stages other than during the national anthem. The memo stated they could speak of unity in pregame or even prepare a video or public service announcement.

The NBA has been supportive of their players taking a stand in social matters through the years and has found a way to still support them now. The NBA players seemed to accept the memo without much action or reaction on Twitter or other social media.

Commissioner Adam Silver has earned the respect of the players in the league in a way that isn’t present currently in the NFL. His memo was worded in a way that still gave players an outlet to speak their mind on things that they truly believe in while representing the league in a way that will not alienate fans.

But the NBA has always seemed to pull this together a bit better than the NFL. It’s possible that the NFL is more popular and so goes through the disaster first. Charlotte, North Carolina and the bathroom bill a year ago had the NFL on the hot seat before the NBA. Maybe Silver is allowed the luxury of watching someone else go through the fire first and getting the benefit of having seen the dire consequences.

The NBA also has a lot fewer players. All rosters combined in the NBA equal 449 players compared to the NFL’s 1,696. It’s much more difficult to manage that many personalities across teams. The NBA is a small, tight knit group of guys. The stars of the league and often times team captains hang out together in the offseason, vacation together, and work out together. This will no doubt help bring ideas together and find agreement.

With so many alpha males in one room, on one team, and especially in football, a sport simply aggressive by nature, clashing personalities are bound to have difficulty coagulating. With every different position in football there comes a different mindset. In the NBA there’s only five positions. It could be argued that there’s only two; really coming down to just big and small men.

The NBA, for the most part, is made up of guys from a similar socio-economic class. Even players from overseas are largely from larger cities who grew up without luxury and excess. Many players grew up in the lower class, playing basketball because it was one of the cheaper sports to get into and the ability to play was around every corner. The NFL has players from every corner of the US, from the Deep South to the borders of Canada.

It could be that building a more cohesive unit was just easier due to the construct of the league. But Silver seems to get away with being the “cool geek” in the group where Goodell seems to come off as the oppressor. This could be attributed directly to their approach with players. Or maybe the overall smugness of something as simple as a smile.

Fan base might have something to do with it as well. The NBA has a younger fan base than the NFL and younger usually aligns with ideologies on the left. The NFL has an aging fan base that, according to a recent Washington Post article, is overwhelmingly right-leaning.

It could be possible that Goodell tries to play towards the fan base as close as possible, to not only appease the broader fan base, but continue viewership which in turn maintains revenue. The protests were popular and the NFL was still getting paid by the government to air the National Anthem. He needed to play both sides and had to make a decision.

The NFL has not seen much of a ratings change since the protests have started and no one was more aware of that than Roger Goodell. He needed to side with fans, players, and the government at the same time while appeasing as many people as possible.

The issue was so many NFL fans lean to the right and it caused those who do to speak out as loud as possible. The fan base of the NBA is simply much closer in similar ideologies to the players than in the NFL and if Goodell is forced to try to side with the broader fan base in order to appease his bosses, this could drive the size of the gap.

Either way, Goodell takes a fair amount of crap for his work. Goodell also gets paid around $24 million more per year than Silver. Maybe that’s the killer. Goodell makes more than the players, while Silver does not. Silver comes in around $10 million per year which is much less than most of the stars make. Even Matt Stafford, the highest paid player in the league, can’t touch Goodell’s hefty paycheck.

Fans and players have hardly ever sided with Goodell like they have with Silver. Somehow Adam has escaped the wrath while maintaining a good relationship with the public, players, and owners.

It’s possible that his recent memo could be the dividing line. But as long as the players don’t become vocal either way, the fans won’t either, and there won’t be any further issue; something that NBA as a whole is very glad about.