LAS VEGAS – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Monday that he believes all leagues have to continue keeping an incredibly close eye on gambling trends within their sport, mindful of issues that the NFL in particular has had to address in recent months.
Silver — who has been a longtime proponent of legalized sports betting frameworks within sports — spoke in Las Vegas, part of a moderated discussion as part of the Associated Press Sports Editors convention. He said he draws the analogy to insider trading, and how leagues, he believes, are finding ways to stay ahead of major problems.
“I think that public markets worked very well in this country," Silver said. “But the other side of a public market is the potential for insider trading. And there’s very sophisticated algorithms, etc., that track it. It’s not that different in sports now, especially when you get higher volumes of betting. You have very sophisticated computers; when they see aberrational betting ... you’re going to get caught.”
The NFL recently suspended four players for violations of its gambling policy; three received at least yearlong bans for betting on NFL games and one a six-game suspension for wagering on non-NFL games. It brings the total to 10 players disciplined over the past two years as that league vowed to increase training efforts across the board with an eye toward protecting the integrity of the game.
“I think there’s a responsibility for these leagues to invest more education, not just our own players, but of young people who might be doing something inappropriate or anybody who might be engaging in problematic gambling,” Silver said.
In other matters Silver discussed Monday:
As he did during the NBA Finals, Silver discussed how the league's ownership landscape will change when Michael Jordan — the lone Black majority owner in the league — finalizes his sale of his majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets.
“I’m so sad to see him leaving, choosing to leave as an owner, but of course he has the right to sell to whomever he wants to,” Silver said. “And I will say in terms of Black representation, we will not have a principal owner who’s Black but we have several, especially former players, Dwyane Wade being the most recently in Utah, Grant Hill, a couple others who have interest in in a team.”
Silver said he can use his “bully pulpit” to make sure ownership groups coming into the league have diversity within their group.
With a new c ollective bargaining agreement in place, the league will turn its attention toward finishing the next series of media rights deals.
And when that's done, the NBA will seriously consider expansion — but not before, Silver said.
“We will turn to expansion once those media deals are done,” Silver said. “It's not a sure thing. But as I’ve said before, I think it’s natural that organizations grow over time. There’s no doubt that there's enormous interest in this (Las Vegas) market.”
Seattle has also long been mentioned as an expansion target. Many players have lobbied for Seattle to return to the NBA, and many — LeBron James among them — have said they strongly support the notion of Las Vegas getting a franchise.
It became known last month that Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is buying a roughly 5% stake in the parent company of the NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals and WNBA’s Washington Mystics as part of a $4.05 billion deal.
But there is no mechanism now — and none coming in the foreseeable future — that would allow such funds to purchase the controlling stake of an NBA team, Silver said.
“It’s very important to us, putting aside sovereign wealth funds, that individuals are in a position to control our teams, be responsible to the fans, be responsible for their partners, and to the players,” Silver said.
Silver stood by the 25-game suspension he gave Memphis guard Ja Morant for his second instance of displaying a gun on social media, even though the National Basketball Players Association has said it believes the sanction is too harsh.
As he said at the NBA Finals, Silver made it clear that he's rooting for Morant.
“As I understand it, he is continuing to seek help,” Silver said. “And I know there’s enormous pressure that comes with being an NBA player, particularly a superstar player. So I’m certainly empathetic to the pressures he faces but I also feel, particularly around guns and the kind of violence we’re seeing among young people in our society, that this is something we have to take incredibly seriously.”