While NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he did not want to "overreact" to calls for him to ban the term "owner," he said the league has shifted toward the use of the word "governor."
"I don't want to overreact to the term because, as I said earlier, people end up twisting themselves into knots avoiding the use of the word owner," Silver told TMZ Sports. "But we moved away from that term years ago in the league. We call our team owners 'governor of the team' and 'alternate governor.'"
Some, including Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, have called on the league to stop using the term due to its racial connotations. Michael Jordan and Vivek Ranadive are the only majority shareholders in the NBA who are not white, whereas about three-quarters of NBA players are black.
Green spoke about his thoughts on the term "owner" during an appearance on HBO's The Shop, saying teams should move toward terms like "CEO or chairman."
"You shouldn't say 'owner,'" Green said (warning: video contains profanity). "When you think of a basketball team, nobody thinks of the f--kin' Golden State Warriors and think of that damn bridge. They think of the players that make that team...you don't even know what the f--k [the bridge] is called."
Jon Stewart, who brought up the topic in the episode and is white, noted that sports are "purely the labor of people." That is in contrast to other businesses, where some jobs may not have any physical labor and are thus seen as less problematic when it comes to the term "owner."
Green has been speaking out against the term since 2017.
"Very rarely do we take the time to rethink something and say, 'Maybe that's not the way,'" Green told reporters in 2017. "Just because someone was taught that 100 years ago doesn't make that the right thing today. And so, when you look at the word 'owner,' it really dates back to slavery. The word 'owner,' 'master'—it dates back to slavery. ... We just took the words and we continued to put it to use."
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban took exception to Green's 2017 comments and demanded an apology. Green did not apologize.
Silver said player opinions differ on the term, with some pointing to Jordan as a point of pride.
"But, of course, Draymond Green has been very public about the fact that we should be moving away from the term, and I completely respect that," Silver said.
Silver said the league plans to continue prioritizing the word "governor," though he admitted some memos have used "owner."