Believing that the league cannot influence the final result of HB11, the commissioner said it is the league’s view that “threatening us to move the All-Star Game would not be constructive.”
In July 2016, the NBA withdrew the scheduled 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, NC, as a result of the league’s opposition to the HB2, which sought to limit anti-discrimination protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders.
After the Utah legislature overturned HB11 Governor Spencer Cox’s veto in late March barring transgender girls from participating in high school athletics in the state, there was concern that the league could also see the NBA All-Star Game, scheduled for 2023 in Salt Lake City.
However, after a meeting of the Board of Directors on Wednesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he does not expect this to be the case.
“There has been no discussion in the past two days about moving the All-Star Game out of Salt Lake City, and we don’t expect the game to be moved,” Silver said during a conference call. “I keep an eye on these accounts across the country, and in those states where we have teams that are active, we work directly with those teams.”
The NBA has a history of taking a stance on social justice issues. In the summer of 2020, as protests erupted across the country in direct response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, the NBA resumed from its COVID hiatus in a bubble environment near Orlando, Florida, with players wearing jerseys with social justice messages, and the court itself prominently displaying the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” Teams knelt while playing the national anthem without penalty.
“Our view today is that threatening to move the All-Star Game would not be constructive,” said Silver.
Asked about the difference between the Charlotte and Salt Lake City situations, the commissioner noted, “In the case of HB2 in North Carolina, I think it was our collective view, working with the Hornets, that we could influence those legislation. I think in the case of what’s happening in Utah right now, that bill has been passed.”
Jazz owner Ryan Smith, who has a history of publicly supporting LGBTQ+ causes — including a “LoveLoud Night” at Vivint Arena during the March 9 game against the Portland Trail Blazers — tweeted his opposition to the bill before Cox’s veto. was lifted.
“We have to love these children. This bill was rushed, flawed and won’t hold up over time. I hope we can find a better way. Either way, for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community, you’re safe with us,” Smith wrote.
Following the change in law, the Jazz as an organization issued an official statement condemning the move: “The Utah Jazz are against discriminatory legislation. We are committed to our values of inclusiveness, mutual respect and fair play. Beyond basketball, we hope for a just solution that shows love and compassion for all our youth.”
Utah Jazz co-owner Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle Union are parents to a transgender daughter, Zaya.
Said Silver: “I think… [Smith] opposed this bill. We have joined him in opposing this bill. But we also want to be realistic when it comes to the impact we can have.”
He added that he was “unsure that moving the All-Star Game would affect even those people who strongly believe this bill is on the books.
“I think you have to look at the dynamics of every situation,” said the commissioner. “I would say here, by bringing us to Utah and showing our values of diversity, respect and inclusion, I think we can make the biggest impact.”
Part of the equation, he admitted, is the growing proliferation of such bills, and the competition’s hunger to have to respond to all of these bills.
“We’re seeing a trend of these bills across the country, 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,” he said.
†[We] I honestly don’t want to be in a position where we are being chased from state to state across the country,” Silver added.
After talking to Smith to discuss the situation, and concluding that the NBA had “an independent ability to change Utah voters’ minds on this, they ultimately decided that moving the All-Star Game – which in people from all over the world and is typically a major money maker for the host city – wasn’t the move to make.
“We find that in our conversation with Ryan, we believe we can create an inclusive environment for our All-Star Game in Salt Lake City that will be welcoming to all of our guests and also to Utah’s diverse community,” said Silver.
Basically, the league believes that its employees should not act as “distributors”.
“Our view today is that threatening to move the All-Star Game would not be constructive,” he concluded.