In the midst of the controversy in Utah last month surrounding HB11, which bans transgender girls from participating in female school sports, there was talk that the NBA could remove its 2023 All-Star Game from the state.
On Wednesday, league commissioner Adam Silver said that will not happen.
Speaking at a press conference after a Board of Governors meeting, Silver was asked by USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt if there was discussion about moving the game from Salt Lake City and what would the circumstances have to be for the game to be moved.
“There was no discussion over the past two days (at the BOG meetings) about moving the game from Salt Lake City, and we do not anticipate moving the game,” Silver said.
Silver noted that the league is working directly with teams in states that do or will have similar legislation, and he noted that Jazz owner Ryan Smith and the team have “come out against that legislation.”
Silver added that his conversations with Smith have led him to believe that an “inclusive environment” can be created at the game next year.
Later during the press conference, Silver was asked why the league has decided not to move the game from Utah when it removed the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina, after that state’s legislature passed HB2, which said that people had to use public restrooms consistent with the sex listed on their birth certificate.
“Every situation is unique,” Silver said. “In the case of 2017 and HB2 in North Carolina, we were working directly with the team there, and it appeared to us that there was an opportunity to have a direct impact on that law working with the larger business community.
“I would say in Utah, again, relying on the Utah Jazz as our partner, in the first and foremost they are on the ground. They understand the intricacies in a way that I don’t and the league doesn’t, being across the country, but again, it’s our collective view that we can continue to operate in Utah, and frankly don’t want to be in a position where we’re chased from state to state around the country.”
Silver said “times have changed,” there are “different issues” going on in the country than there were in 2017 and that the league is looking for ways to bring people together rather than divide them.
“I have tremendous respect for Ryan Smith,” Silver said. “I think he’s stood up against this bill. We’ve joined him in opposing this bill, but we also want to be realistic, too, in terms of the impact we can have.”
Silver said he felt as though removing the All-Star Game from North Carolina could have an impact on what happened with HB2, while he does not feel the same way about HB11.
“I think in the case of what’s happening in Utah right now, that bill is established,” Silver said. “At least our initial view working with the Utah Jazz is that we’re going to have to find a way to work in that environment and create an inclusive environment for our game rather than take the position that we have somehow an independent ability to change the minds of the voters in Utah on this.”
Asked to clarify, Silver said, “We look at every situation for its unique set of facts and circumstances, and I would just say that HB2 was one issue. It was in 2017. It was a different time.
“We’re seeing a trend of these bills in the country, as I said, that I find them personally to be very divisive and in many cases distraction from the issues we all should be really focused on as Americans, and and I also constantly revisit how we as the NBA can be most effective in supporting the values that this league believes in and not being further dividers in those communities.”
Silver reiterated that the league is working with Smith and the Jazz, “and our view today is that making threats that we’re going to move the All-Star Game would not be constructive.”
He said moving the game would be seen as an act of division rather than unification because “in Utah right now, I’m not sure that moving the All-Star Game would even influence those people who feel strongly about having this bill on (the state’s) books.
“I think you have to look at the dynamic of every situation ... by us coming to Utah and demonstrating what our values are in terms of diversity, respect, inclusion, I think we can have the greatest impact, particularly in this case in Utah — independent of North Carolina — when you have a law that deals directly with sports and youth sports, and I think certainly we haven’t made a secret. We want to create an inclusive environment for children to participate in sports.”