NBA Teams Drop the Term 'Owner' Claiming It's Racially Insensitive

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If you own an NBA team, you may not be calling yourself an “owner” soon. Sure, you may be an owner, but pointing that out is racially insensitive.


“Multiple NBA teams have had high-level conversations about doing away with the term ‘owner’ over the past year — and at least two teams have already made the switch,” TMZ Sports reported on Monday.

Those teams are the Philadelphia 76ers, which calls its owners “managing partners” or “limited partners,” and the Los Angeles Clippers, whose owner, Steve Ballmer, calls himself the team’s “chairman.”

Fox News, meanwhile, found that the websites of 15 franchises don’t list any owner. Besides the Clippers and the 76ers, they are the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz.

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There was no word on what the specific impetus behind this was, but comments from Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green back in 2018 seemed to encapsulate the idea behind it as well as any.

WARNING: A lot of rough language. Viewer discretion is advised. 

“You shouldn’t say ‘owner,'” Green said on an episode of LeBron James’ “The Shop” on HBO. He said that “CEO” or ‘majority shareholder” might be a better fit for owners.

Do you think that the term "owner" is racially insensitive in the NBA?

When rapper Snoop Dogg said that he would want to be called “owner” should he own an NBA team, former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart said, “When your product is purely the labor of people, then owner sounds like something that is of a feudal nature.”

Given that an owner is responsible for hiring the people who run the organization and sign the well-remunerated players living this feudal life — as well as fulfilling a panoply of other functions — this isn’t just an idle investment.

But then, the point here is obvious: The NBA is a league whose players are primarily African-Americans and where the owners — or chairmen, or managing partners, or whatever — are mostly white. Therefore, the term “owner” could be seen among the more politically correct as being problematic, as implying the owners “own” the players.

Except they don’t. They own the team. The players, meanwhile, own their talents, and are free to take their labor wherever they want after their rookie contract is over. They also don’t have to sign with the team that drafts them if they don’t want to and, if they haven’t hired an agent, can even return to college.

And keep in mind, calling “owners” something else doesn’t make them any less of an owner. They still do owner-type stuff — including paying the bills. Calling them something different doesn’t turn an NBA franchise into a workers’ cooperative.

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For its part, the NBA says it doesn’t really call its team owners “owners.”

“We refer to the owners of our teams as Governors; each team is represented on our Board of Governors,” a statement from the league to TMZ Sports read.

If the impetus was Green’s remarks on James’ show, it doesn’t seem to have worked in his case. His team’s owner, Joe Lacob, still lists himself as the owner.

How long that lasts remains to be seen. What owners are called, say, five years from now is an open question. Given how many teams are moving away from the term, it’s entirely possible that every owner may just be a “governor” or “limited partner” or whatever, which is somehow more racially sensitive.

That’s not going to change anything but a word, mind you.

But in a society where liberals seem to think that changing language changes reality, those who own sports franchises might not be “owners” sometime in the very near future.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal for four years.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal for four years. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture