“For starters, let’s stop using the word owner and maybe use the word Chairman. To be owned by someone just sets a bad precedent to start. It sets the wrong tone.”
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, had a response for Green, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“For him to try to turn it into something it’s not is wrong,” Cuban told ESPN. “He owes the NBA an apology. I think he does, because to try to create some connotation that owning equity in a company that you busted your ass for is the equivalent of ownership in terms of people, that’s just wrong. That’s just wrong in every which way.
“People who read that message and misinterpret it — make it seem like we don’t do everything possible to help our players succeed and don’t care about their families and don’t care about their lives, like hopefully we do for all of our employees — that’s just wrong.”
Green decided not to further this discussion.
This speaks to perspectives.
Cuban, a renowned player-friendly owner, sees himself as owning a team that contracts with players. Cuban has worked hard to turn the Mavericks’ around — it was one of the worst run franchises in the league when he took over — and Cuban does care about his players in more than just how they can help the team on the court. He and other NBA owners do want to help families, they do want the players to grow as people be more than just guys who put a ball in a hoop.
However, it doesn’t always feel that way to the employees, in this case the players. They can get traded away from those families and that life on a moment’s notice if it’s what is good for the team, regardless of what the player wants. Players see themselves referred to as contracts or assets, and defined by the numbers they produce. We’ve all had jobs where we felt like a number, like a cog in the machine, and in some NBA organizations players do feel that way. They can feel owned, and that is an understandably charged word.
It’s also not going to change. Owners will remain owners. Technically I think Green is more correct — NBA team owners really function more as a chairman in many ways, with minority investors to keep happy and different departments needs to balance. It’s really just semantics, but as we see in every part of the world now, words carry great meaning. They are powerful.
In this case, both sides need to be aware of it.