Oakland (United States) (AFP) - By speaking out against racism and setting an example against intolerance, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday he hopes the league can unify people and help spur social change.
A day after police said a racial insult was spray-painted upon the front gates of NBA superstar LeBron James's Los Angeles home, Silver said the league will do more to combat racism.
"It's a sad state of affairs we still have these issues in society," Silver said in his annual state of the league news conference ahead of the NBA Finals opener.
"There's a strong history in this league of speaking out on issues of inequality, of racial injustice. LeBron himself has been incredibly articulate on these issues.
"There's a role we can continue to play as a uniter. We're going to redouble our efforts, working with the players association, on speaking out on some of these issues."
James spoke out Wednesday about what Silver called a "horrific incident".
"If this is to shed a light and continue to keep the conversation going on my behalf, then I'm OK with it," James said. "But it just goes to show that racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America.
"Hate in America, especially for African-Americans, is living every day. No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough.
"And we've got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans, until we feel equal in America."
- NBA's global reach huge -
In all, 75 percent of NBA players are African-American and one in four NBA players is from outside the United States.
"It's a true melting pot," Silver said. "You have people coming together from all walks of life, from around the world, all playing together on the floor under a common set of rules.
"This is an opportunity to continue to unify people, to demonstrate to people, they see it out on the floor, what it means to run a system as close as we have in our society to true egalitarian system, where people are judged entirely on merit.
"And I think there's a role we can continue to play in society as a unifier."
The sport's global reach will help spread the message, Silver said.
"We project that over one billion people will either watch some portion of these finals or engage through social media, so roughly one out of seven people on this planet will have a direct connection to these finals, which is pretty spectacular," Silver said.
- Silver defends All-Star nod -
Last week, the league awarded the 2019 NBA All-Star Game to Charlotte after having moved this year's contest from Charlotte to New Orleans, in protest at the state of North Carolina adopting a law deemed discriminatory to the gay and transgender community.
A portion of the law requiring people to use the bathroom corresponding to their birth gender was struck down this year, and while many critics were unsatisfied by the extent of the rollback, it was good enough for Silver and the league.
"The law was changed. Sufficient is a tough (call)," Silver said. "The answer is yes, I felt that they made incremental progress. And I felt there's a role the league can play in demonstrating what equality looks like to a community."
By making sure NBA All-Star related events conform to league expectations for treatment of all, Silver thinks the NBA can set an example that North Carolina would want to follow on greater social change.
"Trying to measure precisely whether it was enough progress, we ultimately felt it was. I respect those who feel we may have made the wrong decision," Silver said.
"We can be in a position where we go in and say, this is what it looks like to operate under a set of egalitarian principles, and this is what it looks like to be non-discriminatory ...
"And my hope is by setting that example, we can unify people and that the state will follow."