NBA stopped using term 'owner' in favor of 'governor,' Adam Silver says

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the league “years ago” moved away from using the term “owner,” which some observers believe is racially insensitive in a league where three-quarters of the players are black.

TMZ Sports first reported earlier this month that several NBA teams have stopped using the term “owner,” but recently caught up with Silver for an interview where he confirmed the change in style.

“I don’t want to overreact to the term because, as I said earlier, people end up twisting themselves into knots avoiding the use of the word ‘owner,’” Silver told TMZ Sports. “But we moved away from that term years ago with the league. We call our team owners ‘governors’ of the team and ‘alternate governors.’”

Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green has been particularly outspoken about use of the term “owner.” In 2017, Green sparked controversy when he remarked, ‘[W]hen you look at the word ‘owner,’ it really dates back to slavery. The word ‘owner,’ ‘master’ — it dates back to slavery. … We just took the words and we continued to put it to use.”

Dallas Mavericks team owner Mark Cuban bristled at Green’s remarks, telling ESPN: “For him to try to turn it into something it’s not is wrong. 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 a— for is the equivalent of ownership in terms of people, that’s just wrong.”

In an episode of LeBron James’s HBO show “The Shop,” Green suggested the use of terms such as “CEO,” chairman” and “majority shareholder.”

While Silver concedes NBA memos still sometimes include “owner,” he is “sensitive” to the issue. But he admits there is not consensus around the league about the issue.

“Players have gone both ways. I think a few players have actually spoken out and said the greatest thing that ever happened was when Michael Jordan was able to call himself an owner,” Silver said. “But, of course, Draymond Green has been very public about the fact that we should be moving away from the term … and I completely respect that.”