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The Knicks are a joke, but Adam Silver isn’t: While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

Sometimes in sports, it seems like things move at a snail’s pace. Oh, sure, real time in our daily lives flies by. One season begins to blend right into the next the older we get. But when it comes to making actual change in sports in any meaningful way, things take a while.

Whether it be drug testing in baseball, concussion protocols in football, putting advertising on uniforms, suspending a player for having someone let some air out of some footballs, or any other issue, big or small, they have a tendency to take some time to either get implemented or to alter an expected outcome. Obviously those issues listed above are all pretty significant issues, but even smaller things tend to linger in sports.

What kind of smaller things? Grudges, controversies, legal issues with players, etc., etc., etc. You know, things like this Charles Oakley debacle. When I wrote my “While We’re Waiting…” last Tuesday, this incident hadn’t yet occurred. I remember Wednesday night thinking to myself that it was a really slow sports day. I wondered to myself what the lead story would be on sports talk the next morning. I really did.

Fortunately for said sports talk cycles, that night Charles Oakley attended the New York Knicks game. And all hell broke loose.

Suddenly, everyone had something to talk about. Including the New York Knicks organization, which put out the following statement:

“Charles Oakley came to the game tonight and behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner,” the Knicks wrote in a statement on Twitter. “He has been ejected and is currently being arrested by the New York City Police Department. He was a great Knick and we hope he gets some help soon.”

He was a great Knick, and we hope he gets some help soon. Help for what, exactly? Anger management? Drinking? Drugs? Stadium etiquette? The Knicks weren’t clear on that point. It was a petty, cheap low-blow to Oakley. I don’t think anyone would dispute that Oakley’s behavior at Madison Square Garden that night was completely unacceptable. But the Knicks’ statement was so much worse because it didn’t attempt to provide closure or answers, it wanted to humiliate Oakley. It made it sound like Oakley had a problem and the natural assumption most people went to was alcohol and/or drugs.

I saw the video of Oakley’s interview upon being released from jail after his arrest that night. He didn’t look inebriated or under the influence of anything. His answers were calm, measured, and reasonable. Were they truthful? Eh, I don’t really know. But it certainly didn’t seem like someone who needed “help”. It made the Knicks seem irresponsible, really. Irresponsible because there are a lot of people in this world who really do need help, and trying to use that to further public favor is incredibly lame.

Then again, this is the New York Knicks we’re talking about. The same franchise that currently has a team President (Phil Jackson) who has been antagonizing the team’s star (Carmelo Anthony) all season to some end. After Wednesday’s events, Phil Jackson sent out this ridiculous tweet:

https://twitter.com/PhilJackson11/status/829820226569195520

Then over the weekend, the Knicks decided to one up this by inviting Latrell Sprewell (who, like Oakley, had been estranged from the franchise due to his critical remarks about the team) to come to the game, sit beside Knicks owner James Dolan and be recognized by the fans. It was so over-the-top transparent that it just brought on some of the most over-dramatic eye rolls you could see.

The Knicks, one of the NBA’s most marquee franchises, have become a mockery in every way. An absolute embarrassment. And now, with neither the Knicks nor Oakley backing down, the rhetoric seemed to be only starting. This seemed to be one of those things that would take a long time to change in sports.

But to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, enough was enough. He wanted this to end, and he wanted it to stop right now. Never one to let things linger, Silver quickly moved to get Dolan and Oakley both in his office, with Michael Jordan participating via phone, to discuss a resolution.

Some would say that there is no such thing as bad publicity, that it’s better to be in the press for the wrong reasons than to not be in the press at all. Adam Silver disagrees. Any time there has been anything that threatens to have the NBA in the media for the wrong reasons, Silver has moved extraordinarily quick to resolve it.

When Donald Sterling’s recorded racist remarks were made public, it seemed like the kind of controversy that would linger and cast a dark cloud over the league for months, if not years. That recording of Sterling was released by TMZ on April 25, 2014. Just a mere four days later, on April 29, Adam Silver announced that he had banned Sterling from the NBA for life and fined him $2.5 million, the max allowed under league rules. Sterling was prohibited from entering any Clippers facility, he was not allowed to attend any NBA game, and all his powers as owner of the team were stripped away. By May 29, a sale of the Clippers had been agreed to.

When the state of North Carolina passed a state law that created a sort of gray area for discrimination against LGBT people, Adam Silver made it clear it was unacceptable for the league to hold any major events in a place where fans of the league might be discriminated against. With Charlotte set to host the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, Silver quickly maneuvered to move the game to New Orleans instead.

Seemingly any time there is some kind of issue, or controversy, surrounding the NBA, Silver has been there to act decisively to move past the issue. So when Silver saw the NBA becoming a top story on every major news outlet, sports or not, he wanted a resolution. So he sat down with Dolan and Oakley and they figured out a resolution. After the meeting, Silver released the following statement:

“It is beyond disheartening to see situations involving members of the NBA family like the one that occurred at Madison Square Garden this past week. In an effort to find a path forward, New York Knicks owner Jim Dolan, Charles Oakley, and I met today at the league office, along with Michael Jordan, who participated by phone.

“Both Mr. Oakley and Mr. Dolan were apologetic about the incident and subsequent comments, and their negative impact on the Knicks organization and the NBA. Mr. Dolan expressed his hope that Mr. Oakley would return to MSG as his guest in the near future.

“I appreciate the efforts of Mr. Dolan, Mr. Oakley and Mr. Jordan to work towards a resolution of this matter.”

That’s it. No need to admonish one side or embarrass anyone. Just a simple, but stern, statement of facts to allow everyone involved to move past the issue with their pride and egos intact. It’s a sign of great leadership and resolve and the NBA is lucky to have Silver as their commish.

I mention all of this simply because it’s such a stark contrast to Roger Goodell’s leadership style. Goodell has been in the media himself lately, though not much of it for things I would consider “good”. There was the issue of him avoiding going to Foxborough for a Patriots playoff game. There was the awkwardness of him congratulating Tom Brady on winning the Super Bowl. There were the recent reports of NFL execs being infuriated with New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who wore a Goodell clown shirt coming off the team plane after the Super Bowl win. None of this is to mention the lingering legal issues from Ray Rice to Greg Hardy to everyone in between.

The NFL can’t seem to get out of its own way when it comes to public relations, and a lot of that trickles down from the leadership at the top. Commissioners work for the owners, not the players, so it would be easy to say, “Well, of course the players hate the commissioner.” When you hear NBA players talk about Adam Silver, though, the tone is much different. Even with the latest labor agreement struck between the league and the players, Silver was able to get the owners to quickly agree to a deal that has benefits to both sides. And the deal was done with a quickness and ease I’ve never seen before in my lifetime with the NBA.

Some might wonder why I, or anyone else, should care about any of this. But I view commissioners as stewards of the sports I love. And the sports I watch are so much more fun when there is labor harmony and the league, the owners, and the players all work for compromise in the name of mutual benefit. I’ve talked a lot over the past year or two about how my passion for NFL football seems to be declining. It’s not an outcome I desire, but it’s very real. And much of it has to do with the way the league has been run under Roger Goodell. To quote Phil Jackson above, “‘I’m against it.”

The recent events of the last week or two have really driven home to me the differences in how the NBA and the NFL are being run. Thankfully, Major League Baseball seems to have a commissioner in Rob Manfred who is more Adam Silver than Roger Goodell, seeking to proactively work to make baseball the best game it can be and to promote a healthy public image that is inviting to all fans of every walk of life. No one person can make me dislike an entire sport, but Goodell seems to keep making it harder and harder to feel good about football. And that’s a problem.

The NFL Draft is just over two months away. It’ll be a chance for fans to boo Goodell and you better believe the boos will be raining down from the rafters. I don’t know how Goodell feels about it personally, but one has to wonder how he feels when he sees Adam Silver cheered by fans at the NBA Draft. Commissioners matter to various degrees to different people, but no matter where their level of importance falls on your personal scale, I have to admit I feel pretty fortunate to have Silver watching over my personal favorite sport.

  • RGB

    HB2 is a classic example of political overreach.
    It was not put to a public vote, nor is it supported by the majority of local communities. Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Asheville, Wilmington are among the communities acting to pass their own local legislation to counteract HB2. Their police departments have declined to enforce it.
    Yet, the mainstream media continues to vilify NC with no consideration or mention as to how the issue is playing out on a local level.

  • scripty

    I believe 13 more states are drafting an equivalent version of HB2, including TEX, which may cost them Final Fours and Super Bowls.

  • RGB

    Some observations from channel surfing last night:
    1. The Four Letter and the NFL Network have completely different takes on the #1 pick. The Four Letter obviously wants us to take a QB in order to feed their Cleveland is a joke narrative. The NFL Network is behind us taking MYLES. I’m slowing weening myself off of the Four Letter’s NFL shows in favor of the NFL Network.
    2. Steve Kerr has the most punchable face in all of sports. And to think we used to like that guy. He’s a perfect example of success going to one’s head.
    3. Dick Vitale continues to the worst basketball announcer. I’ve gotten to the point were I just change the channel if he’s involved with the broadcast. WVU/KU was a fantastic game last night that was ruined by his incessant hooting and hollering. I realize he is a nice guy and quality individual, but his cheerleader-style renders even the best games totally unwatchable.

  • NankirPhelge

    1. Oakley started it, and then Dolan needlessly escalated it. A punch in the arm to both of them. And good job by Silver for settling the matter.

    2. There are a lot of things to criticize Goodell for, so we don’t have to invent things. Criticizing him for awkwardness in congratulating Brady is just piling on. What was he supposed to do? What else could he have done? Let’s not fabricate things to scoff about.

    3. If I was Goodell, I would have some fun with all the booing at the
    draft. I’d take a little bow and say, “Thank you, thank you, you’re too
    kind, really.” Lighten up and get a laugh out of it. But instead he
    stands there and pretends it isn’t happening, and that just makes it
    worse.

    Meanwhile, what are the people who are doing to booing upset about? I’ll guess, Nothing. They’re just booing to be noticed.

  • JNeids

    You can replace “Steve Kerr” with almost anyone on the Warriors. Their arrogance continues to amaze me. MAYBE if they had actually won last year…but one championship two seasons ago does not make them God’s Gift to Basketball.

    I fully admit I enjoyed when Lebron 1.0 and company posed for pregame photo shoots, etc. But that wasn’t them saying “we’re better than you and we know it and we want to make sure you and everybody else knows it,” that was just basically just a level of immaturity (one that I don’t necessarily have a problem with – basketball is a game and the players were having fun…what’s wrong with that?). Curry’s shimmy before the ball goes through the hoop, him playing volleyball at a dead ball, etc…I’m still waiting for someone to make one of them pay for their antics, and yet no one ever does.

  • NankirPhelge

    I used to like Vitale, but his schtick finally got annoying, and I’ve considered him unwatchable for a good number of years now. He’s like John Madden and Chris Berman, to name two. They were once entertaining and original, but they kept beating the same old schtick into the ground and eventually became parodies of themselves.

  • NankirPhelge

    I’m all for equal rights for LGBT, but allowing people with male genitalia to use women’s and girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms is complete insanity. We have to use some common sense.

    BTW, I think an unintended consequence of unisex bathrooms will be to simply create more men’s rooms because women won’t want to use them.

  • Jeremy Humbert

    Agree with you on point #1. I really enjoy the Good Morning Football crew and show. There are a few people on the network that grate me, Casserly, but others I hands down prefer over any ESPN talking heads.
    I don’t watch enough basketball to care or comment on your other 2 points 🙂

  • JNeids

    Not necessarily direct responses to your comments, but nonetheless:

    1. Is Sprewell THAT hard up for attention that he had to accept Dolan’s invite?

    2. I still don’t fully understand this. The Patriots cheated, no? Yet, they make Goodell the villain for investigating it? I am by NO means a fan of Goodell’s, but in this situation, why are the Patriots players/owner/coaches/fans granted holier-than-thou status? Just because Goodell is always the greater evil?

    3. Exactly. He should take it in stride like David Stern did. Soak it up. Put on your best Vince McMahon.

  • Hopwin

    Public bathrooms are disgusting and should be banned for all genders.

    I wish we could pass some HB3 that would abolish all bathrooms outside private homes.

  • maxfnmloans

    theres a joke in there about the south, and outhouses but im too tired to figure it out

  • RGB

    Wizzing in a trough at a large sporting event/concert is a right of passage.

  • Hopwin
  • RGB

    Some, no, many department store bathrooms are much nicer than almost all of the bathrooms at my friends houses in college.
    The thought of them still makes me queezy.

  • maxfnmloans

    I hear what you’re saying, seems silly to let someone with a pocket rocket use the ladies room. heres the flip side though: imagine for a moment you have a wang, yet you identify (and dress) as a woman? Having to go into a mens room would be far worse than being able to go into a ladies room where there are no urinals, only stalls (ostensibly with doors). Ideally, if you self identify as a lady, you’d be dressed accordingly, where others may not immediately be able to notice you are not a lady, and also, one would hope you would act with decency and decorum while in the ladies room. On the other hand, if youre dressed as a woman, but had to use a mens room, it would be immediately apparent, and extremely embarrassing (I would imagine)

    Now, if they want to start using public money to install urinals in ladies rooms, thats where Id draw the line.

  • jpftribe

    Nice piece Andrew. Good to see that in at least one sport there is a responsible adult in charge.

  • Well, regarding #2, I would argue that Goodell created the awkwardness of the situation with his handling of the ball-deflating issue (I refuse to use -gate anymore). I thought the entire way he handled the whole thing, including the asinine punishment handed out, was just awful.

  • I can’t speak for everyone, only myself. But the reason I am outraged with Goodell over his handling of the deflated balls issue is he allowed it to drag on and become this “thing” for over two seasons all because he handed down a punishment that I feel is laughable for what was actually done. I think “cheated” is extremely harsh for what occurred. Players try to get away with cheating all the time. It’s gamesmanship. Letting a little extra air out of a football is akin to pitchers trying to sneak a substance on a baseball. It’s against the rules, yes, and a punishment is warranted. But 25% of the season for the player plus a 1st round pick and a huge fine for the team is just way too harsh. Had the NFL just fined Brady and the Pats for it and moved on, I don’t think this would even be a thing we are still talking about today. I entirely blame Goodell for this being such a stupid thing that we are still talking about today.

  • maxfnmloans

    My guess is Sprewell is that hard up for money, what with having to feed his family, bankruptcy and all

  • RGB

    Ok, you’ll appreciate this story.
    One time at an OSU football game, my ex-wife took a cab back home to do her business instead of relieving herself at the Varsity Club.

  • Hopwin

    Work bathrooms are the worst. I see people brushing their teeth with their mouths gaping open in there while coworkers are, apparently, slaughtering pigs in the stalls behind them.

  • JNeids

    I don’t necessarily disagree with anything you said, except maybe whether or not the Pats cheated, with or without quotation marks. Did they break a rule? Yes. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most egregious rule you can break, this is definitely close to, if not a 1. But like they say – it’s only cheating if you get caught. And they got caught. Again, I agree the punishment didn’t fit the crime and there IS plenty to be upset with Goodell about in this situation. The only part about it I dislike is them being upset that they got caught. You cheated. You got caught. Man up.

  • RGB

    I’ll spare you my Put-In-Bay bathroom story. lol

  • NankirPhelge

    Good point. One solution might be for the guy to hike up his skirt and pee behind a tree. Or wear a urine bag.

    But suppose some woman is taking a shower at the rec center and in walks someone who identifies as a female. But since he’s stark naked, the woman has no way of knowing that. Panic ensues.

    The trouble with this bathroom business is that some people think equality means rejecting reality. Men and women are different; they have been since evolution and they will be until extinction. Absolute equality is not possible.

    BTW, if a guy wants to identify as a female, then he should have his junk cut off. Commit. Otherwise, he’s hedging his bet and not really identifying.

    I’d like to hear what some straight women think about all this. We never do. I can’t imagine there’s much support for all this.

  • Garry_Owen

    Not-using-“gate”-gate.

  • Eric G

    Can we get to the real news today? GRADY IS BACK!

  • jpftribe

    Somewhere out there is a CEO of a urine bag company that loves you dearly. If she is a straight woman, you may have hit the jackpot.

  • Harv

    One stark difference between Silver and Goodell is that Silver arrived with a crystal clear and consistent vision of what he wants his league to stand for and against. And this has enabled quick and decisive actions to guide events consistent with that vision.

    Goodell’s vision seems simply keeping the NFL status quo as America’s entertainment money machine, without any underlying principles. And that leads him to play the bad-ass sheriff who backs down in the face of a public backlash, ever fearful of a ratings drop. Maybe it’s my perception, but Silver appears first and foremost to be imposing a well-considered personal vision, and his embrace of players in the process makes them perceive the league as a partnership where they all have much to gain and lose. (You never hear NFL players invoking the phrase “OUR league” the way NBA players now do reflexively). I cannot remember a commissioner of a major American sport as reviled by players as Goodell. And that loss of credibility is completely self-inflicted – no one respects a big stick leader who lacks the courage of his own fuzzy convictions.

  • Garry_Owen

    Yes! As Assistant to the Traveling Secretary, or some such nonsense.

  • Harv

    Grady’s Blue-Haired Ladies!

  • Harv

    What a difference between the Tribe and Browns: Tribe lets Grady shmooze with minor leaguers for a few weeks, but the Browns won’t even let brain-damaged Bernie be the GM for a couple of years.

  • NankirPhelge

    Okay, but once the awkwardness was there, it was there. So what should Goodell have done on the Super Bowl stage? Refused to shake Brady’s hand? Embraced him in a bear hug? Not shown up?

    He did what he had to do, so give him a break. And props to Brady for acting with class on the stage.

  • How dare you!

  • I’m not arguing he should have done anything. My argument is that he had already created that moment. That awkwardness was of his own doing.

  • NankirPhelge

    When I was 18-19, I worked at a diner that was popular with a lot of teen-agers. Friday night and Saturday night were Grab a Mop and Go Clean Up the Puke in the Men’s Room Night. We all took turns.

  • NankirPhelge

    The awkwardness was of the Pats’ doing.

  • chrisdottcomm

    The GOP ….we demand the government downsize and stay out of our lives unless it’s to tell gays where/when to use the bathroom and women where/when to use their reproductive rights.

  • RGB

    Government overreach may be found from both parties.

  • chrisdottcomm

    I didn’t say it isn’t.

  • mgbode

    Reproductive rights is the dirtiest damn term I have ever heard. Such damn filth. Disgusting.

    That is all.

  • chrisdottcomm

    MMkay snowflake. 😉

  • mgbode

    Just walking back political rhetoric where the scientific fact a living being is inside is ignored.

    I’m fine with being a snowflake, I am unique 🙂

  • chrisdottcomm

    We’ll need a separate “let’s argue” on this one someday… but the Bauer/Dery article has taken up our religious/political commentary for the week.

    I’m exhausted.

    Go Cavs.

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  • maxfnmloans

    yeah i think the public bathroom and locker room situations should not be lumped together