Could NBA Drop the Term 'Owner' From Its Teams? Some Think It Is Insensitive

The National Basketball Association is dominated by African American players and predominantly controlled by white, male owners. Now, some NBA franchises have considered dropping the term "owner" from their day-to-day vernacular, calling it "insensitive."

TMZ reported Monday that multiple teams could join the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers in softening the tone of the person's title who controls the business franchise.

"We're told the conversations essentially center around the idea that the term, owner — in a league where the majority of the players are black — feels racially insensitive," the TMZ report stated.

The term "owner" refers to the person who owns controlling interest (more than 50 percent) of the franchise, or the majority shareholder.

The NBA is populated by nearly 75 percent black players, with the remaining players identified as white, European or other backgrounds, according to a report from tidesport.org.

Meanwhile, owners of NBA franchises are comprised of mostly white men, according to the same study.

The conversation has been fueled by Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green, who first talked about the issue in 2017, and then brought it back to light on LeBron James' show The Shop in late 2018.

"You shouldn't say owner," said Green, who suggested teams use terms like CEO or majority shareholder, instead of owner. He continued his The Shop appearance by saying, "When you think of a basketball team, nobody thinks of the f---in' 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--- [the bridge] is called."

A year before that rant, Green said the term owner dates back to days of slavery, when, most often, aristocratic white men owned black slaves.

"Very rarely do we take the time to rethink something and say, 'Maybe that's not the way,'" Green said. "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."

According to basketball-reference.com, Green, 29, will make $17,469,565 in guaranteed salary for the 2018-19 season, and that bumps to $18,539,130 next year. This year he is the fourth-highest player paid for the Warriors, who are currently in the NBA Finals (tied 1-1 with the Toronto Raptors) and going for their fourth title in five years. Only Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson make more money this season for the Warriors than Green.

Billionaire Mark Cuban, who bought the Dallas Mavericks in early 2000, said Green should apologize to the NBA because team owners own equity, not people.

"For him to try to turn it into something it's not is wrong," Cuban told Tim McMahon, who covers the Mavericks for ESPN.com. "He owes the NBA an apology. I think he does, because to try to create some connotation that owning equity in a company that you busted your ass for is the equivalent of ownership in terms of people, that's just wrong. That's just wrong in every which way."

"People who read that message and misinterpret it — make it seem like we don't do everything possible to help our players succeed and don't care about their families and don't care about their lives, like hopefully we do for all of our employees — that's just wrong," he said.

The NBA told TMZ Sports that "We refer to the owners of our teams as Governors; each team is represented on our Board of Governors."

Steve Ballmer was first called the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers before his title was changed to "chairman" on the team's website in 2018, TMZ reported. In Philadelphia, the 76ers "owners" have changed their titles to "partners."

The only African American majority owner is Hall of Fame player Michael Jordan, who owns a majority of the stock in the Charlotte Hornets, according to tidesport.org. The only other two NBA owners of color are India's Vivek Ranadive (Sacramento Kings) and Moroccan-born Marc Lasry (Milwaukee Bucks).

The tidesport.org sturdy indicates there are several people of color, and women, who own less than 50 percent of NBA franchises.

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green, #23 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after he made a shot against the New Orleans Pelicans at ORACLE Arena on January 16 in Oakland, California. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images