NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will try to strike a balance next season between embracing the players' quest to raise awareness for social justice matters while also scaling back the related messaging seen on jerseys, the court and before games.
Silver joined ESPN's "NBA Countdown" earlier in the week and suggested some of those elements will end up being temporary.
“I would say, in terms of the messages you see on the court and our jerseys, this was an extraordinary moment in time when we began these discussions with the players and what we all lived through this summer. My sense is there will be somewhat of a return to normalcy, that those messages will largely be left to be delivered off the floor," he said.
Silver also said the NBA will remain "completely committed to standing for social justice and racial equality." The league will just have to figure out other ways moving forward.
Silver referencing the "extraordinary moment" harkens back to the negotiations between the league and the players association ahead of the restart bubble in Orlando. Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer, players were adamant the league not ignore current events while resuming business.
But Silver also has to balance the glaring problem of interest in the league being down with Game 3 between the Lakers and Heat registering the lowest television rating ever recorded for an NBA Finals game. Some, including high-profile politicians, have theorized the league's embrace of social justice messaging has been the culprit.
Though it seems unlikely that is the primary reason, as there are many others to point to like the fact the NBA is now competing more directly with other sports when it usually takes center stage in the summer, Silver is not ignoring the complaints he's heard.
“I understand those people who are saying ‘I’m on your side, but I want to watch a basketball game,'" Silver said.
There are also the interests of NBA team owners to keep in mind. Wizards chairman Ted Leonsis appeared on CNN in August and weighed in on the matter while reflecting a similar stance to Silver.
"Right now, it's a player-driven self-expression and we want to support the players. It was a part of our promise. We were living through a pandemic and we also had this 'Black Lives Matter' moment, which we promised that we would work with the players to turn it more into a movement. So, we have to meet our commitments," Leonsis said.
"I think long-term, obviously as a media property you want to have a wide reach. We want to make sure that the focus is more on the game. But right now, I think it is very, very appropriate."