Commissioner Adam Silver has deftly steered the NBA through some troubled waters: The Donald Sterling tapes and forcing him out of ownership; a new Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiation; the “bathroom bill” in North Carolina that caused the NBA to move the All-Star Game from there two years ago (it returns this weekend); the questions around kneeling and symbols of protest around the national anthem and concerns about police use of excessive force in minority communities. Through it all the NBA fan base has grown and been able to focus on where Anthony Davis or Kevin Durant will play next — and the games themselves — rather than the issues around the league.
The NFL on the other hand… not so deft dealing with its issues.
There’s a segment of NFL owners who want Roger Goodell out as their commissioner, and apparently some of them have reached out to Silver, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. He’s not showing any interest.
While Silver did not explicitly confirm that he had been approached by NFL owners, sources close to the situation told ESPN that several NFL owners have tried to persuade Silver to run their league over the course of his five years as the NBA’s commissioner. Silver has also been approached by a number of Fortune 500 companies, according to sources.
“I’ll just say I have not given it any thought,” Silver told ESPN about his reaction to those job opportunities. “I feel very fortunate to be in this position. As a longtime fan, as a longtime league employee, the opportunity to become the commissioner of this league was beyond anything I even ever dreamed of as a kid.
“I’ve loved every day I’ve been in this job, and I think there’s nothing but enormous opportunity ahead for this league. And ultimately, I realize I’m just passing through like every player who’s gone through this league and ultimately like every owner, and I feel an enormous obligation to the fans and to this greater NBA family to do my best and try my hardest every day. But that’s where 100 percent of my focus is.”
That NFL owners — or boards of major corporations — have reached out to Silver is no surprise. Right now he is the gold standard of owners, the kind of leader that works to build a consensus and makes sure parties are listened to, rather than running the business like a dictatorship. He’s also a calmer influence than his predecessor, David Stern.
Silver seems to be taking a cue from some of the NBA’s elite players, who have (or are about to) turn down larger sums of money to work in a situation they like. Silver can look at the growing international business of the NBA, the substantial strides the league has made in the digital and social media markets, how the league is poised to handle the advent of legalized gambling, and the relative labor calm, then contrast that with the NFL’s situation and ask himself “would more money be worth it?”
Last June, Silver signed a five-year extension with the NBA (which would take him through the 2023-24 season) and it is not looking to get out of it.