NEW YORK — The 2023 NBA All-Star Game will remain in Utah, Commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday, putting an end to thoughts the league could take the game out of Salt Lake City after the state passed a bill banning transgender students. to play school sports under the gender they identify with. The league had previously said it was monitoring the situation in Utah after the legislature passed HB11 there last month.
Silver said there was no discussion at board of governors meetings this week about moving the game. Jazz owner Ryan Smith opposed the bill after state lawmakers passed HB11 by overturning a Utah governor’s veto.
The NBA took a different stance than it did in 2016 when it pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte after North Carolina passed HB2, a law that also discriminated against the LGBTQ community by banning transgender people from using corresponding bathrooms and locker rooms. with their gender identity in public buildings, stating that state law provided all the protections afforded by local laws. However, that decision does not appear to have set a precedent for the league.
“Every situation is unique,” said Silver.
Unlike in North Carolina, Silver said the NBA doesn’t believe it could have an impact on applicable law. Utah’s HB11 will go into effect in July, and he said the league relies on the Jazz franchise and Smith for advice and understanding of the situation in the state.
“It’s our collective belief that we can continue to operate in Utah, and frankly don’t want to be in a position where we’re being chased across the country from state to state,” Silver said. “Times have changed. There are different problems in the country now than in 2017. Personally, I don’t like the trend. We as a competition are also aware that we are looking for opportunities to unite people instead of dividing them. ”
When the NBA decided to move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, it did so because Silver said the law didn’t fit the league’s values. The NBA felt it could pressure the state to revoke HB2 and was joined by the NCAA and a host of other companies. The league’s decision was well received.
Riots against HB2 eventually led to a change of government in North Carolina when Governor Pat McCrory lost a reelection bid. The law was eventually replaced by another that was also considered inadequate by LGBTQ advocates. Silver said it had done enough to eliminate the worst parts of HB2. The league held the competition in Charlotte two years later.
“What’s happening in Utah right now, that bill has been enacted,” Silver said. “At least our first view, working with the Utah Jazz, is that we need to find a way to work in that environment and create an inclusive environment for our playing rather than taking the stance that we somehow have an independent capacity. to change the minds of Utah voters on this.”
With Utah, the NBA appears to have weighed in on whether moving the All-Star Game would have an impact on the state and the future of the law. While Silver again said HB11 doesn’t match the league’s values, the NBA leaves the game in place. It hopes to prevent another divisive effect, and Silver said it could if the NBA moved the game. Instead, he believes the NBA can make a bigger impact by keeping it there and “we want to create an inclusive environment for kids to play in,” Silver said.
The NBA may face a similar dilemma in the future. Indiana’s governor vetoed a similar bill last month, but state lawmakers were able to override his decision. If they did, it would be the twelfth bill passed in recent years, according to The New York Times. The 2024 All-Star Game will take place in Indianapolis.
“We look at each situation on its unique set of facts and circumstances, and I would just like to say that HB2 was one problem,” said Silver. “2017 was a different time. We’re seeing a trend of these bills in the country, as I mentioned, and I personally find them very divisive and in many cases a distraction from the issues that we should all really focus on as Americans. I also constantly look at how we as the NBA can be most effective in supporting the values this league believes in and not as further distributors in these communities. And just like we did in North Carolina, with Michael Jordan and Fred Whitfield in Charlotte, here we’re working directly with Ryan Smith and his organization. Our view today is that threatening to move the All-Star Game would not be constructive.”
• Silver appeared to be considering the length of the NBA season as part of the negotiation process for the league’s next media rights deal and collective bargaining agreement, as the timing for both could align in the coming years.
“If we have too many games, we have to look at that too,” he said. “It’s something, as we sit down and we look at new media deals and look at a new collective bargaining agreement, we’ll study.”
The commissioner sees it all as part of a larger discussion about how the NBA sells its product to TV providers and consumers. He wants to create more reasons for players to play, and fight off the trends that keep them off the field. He sees the Play-In tournament as an incentive to keep them playing throughout the season, with more at stake for teams that are at the bottom of the playoffs and those that would otherwise have been eliminated by now.
The league could also change some of the way it sells media rights to another version with a direct-to-consumer option that Silver says fans should sell when buying its games in a new way than in an RSN. and national TV landscape.
“Our players will also need to understand this – that if you’re in a model where, instead of buying a pack, in many cases you have to convince that fan, that consumer every time that your product is worth buying, you want to put your best foot forward’, he said.
Silver later said: “From my conversations with players it appears that it is also a problem. The style of the game has changed in terms of the impact on their bodies. I think we have to constantly assess and look at a future market and say, what’s the best way to present our product and how long a season?”
• Speaking of that next media deal, which will start in 2025, the question is where it will end up. Currently, the NBA has national deals with ESPN and Turner Sports. The league agreed to it in 2014, and a lot has changed in the way people look at things now. This season, Major League Baseball will feature games on ESPN, TBS, Fox, Peacock, Apple TV, and Amazon. The NFL has a deal for games on Amazon and Apple TV may be next. Subscribing to every streaming service out there might just be the new cable bundle if you want to watch sports.
Where does it place that the NBA is now figuring out where it will broadcast its games from 2025? Silver was asked about the NBA’s prospects for direct-to-consumer services.
“That’s the direction the media is going in this country,” he said. “People want personalization. They want customization. If you look at what’s happening, you mention Apple or Amazon or Hulu or Netflix or Disney and so on, I’m sure all of you in this room — I definitely use those services too. And what’s also different, from a technology standpoint, they give consumers flexibility and features that you may not find through conventional satellite and cable delivery. So part of what we’re very focused on in the competition is no matter what platform we’re delivered on, how can we improve the experience for the consumer? … The discussions we are having now have a lot to do with predictions about how the media market is going. We are, of course, closely following what is happening with other American leagues, what is happening internationally with sports rights. But I think we’ll continue to see a morphing of many of these rights from traditional services to streaming services. And frankly, that’s where consumers are going.”
• Expect the Play-In Tournament to stay in place. This is the second year and it has been year to year, but Silver said on Wednesday that he expects to return next season.
“When we researched it, we were very focused on the actual Play-In games themselves, and what we’re seeing is a much bigger impact, especially on the last month of the season where teams are either jockeying to participate in the Play -In-tournament itself or jockeying to get out of the Play-In tournament with a locked sixth seed,” he said. “We’re happy with it. It may need some additional tweaking. We’ll see how it this year, but I think it’s going to be a fixture in this competition.”
• The current take-foul version could be moved to the dustbin of history this summer. Silver said the league is considering a rule change for next season and the sign-off could come in July at a next meeting of the board of governors. The rule has been a focus of attention for the league and Silver said there should be more discussion with the league’s competition committee.
“We’re seeing a pretty dramatic increase in violations; we don’t think it’s a big part of our game,” said Silver. “International basketball has a different way of achieving it, but that’s something we might want to adapt.”
(Photo: Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)