Sports

Adam Silver’s take on ESPN drama reveals NBA’s double standard

For some, “better late than never” is a sick joke. Late is the same as never.

Last week, NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued an enough-is-enough declaration on the heels of ESPN’s latest racial strife — Rachel Nichols versus Maria Taylor. That followed the NBA’s blind, all-in promotion of Black Lives Matter and the Marxist fringe lunatics at its fore and core, a decision the NBA came to regret as matter of business, research and further BLM activities.

BLM clearly doesn’t feel that black lives matter as it decries unspecified systemic racism while conspicuously ignoring the continuing daily slaughter of blacks by blacks.

Speaking better late than never common sense, Silver last week said: “I think it’s particularly unfortunate that two women in the industry are pitted against each other. I know that both Rachel and Maria are terrific at what they do. They work extraordinarily hard.

“We should be judging people by the larger context of their body of work and who they are and what we know about them.

“These issues are not specific to ESPN. The league is working on its own issues in terms of doing a better job with diversity. Not just in sports, but in companies across America. There’s a reckoning going on.

“I think part of the problem is that when people can’t get in a room and talk through these issues — this seemingly has festered now for a full year. I would have thought that in the past year, maybe through some incredibly difficult conversations, that ESPN would have found a way to be able to work through it. Obviously not.”

Silver then wondered about the absence “of a climate where people are comfortable saying what’s on their mind, where people are given the benefit of the doubt, especially long-term employees in good standing, when they do make comments, that people recognize that people make mistakes — that careers shouldn’t be erased by a single comment.”

NBA
Adam Silver
AP

No one read those comments with greater interest and perhaps disgust than Grant Napear, a New Yorker who was 32 years the TV voice of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and 26 years a radio show host. Napear was summarily fired from both as a racist for replying to a tweet about BLM with, “All lives matter, every single one!”

He didn’t know that such a noble sentiment was considered by wishful agitators as indefensibly and unforgivably racist. Instead of ignoring such wishful reactionaries, his bosses ran like frightened rabbits, leaving Napier’s career and reputation destroyed by the sudden permanent stain of “racist.”

“I read those [Silver] comments,” Napear wrote The Post on Friday, “and I was like … Sure would have been nice to hear that last year …

“Now people are talking about it and acknowledging that it’s wrong. Adam said, ‘Careers shouldn’t be erased by a single comment.’ Mine was. I’m grateful he made those remarks, but I’m still unemployed for saying something as simple as, ‘All lives matter, every single one.’

“Adam also said we should judge people by the larger context of their work and who they are and what we know about them. That sure didn’t happen for me. My body of work was irrelevant when I lost my career.”

Then there’s longtime ESPN tennis analyst Doug Adler, summarily fired for praising Venus Williams for putting the “guerrilla effect on, charging,” not an uncommon expression for poaching the net.

A New York Times freelancer then implied the preposterous in a tweet — Adler had, for no reason and out the blue, just called Williams “a gorilla.” ESPN, not caring about the plain, indisputable truth, freaked out.

Rachel Nichols interviewing Chris Paul on ESPN at the end of the NBA Western Conference finals.
NBAE via Getty Images

And the Times still hasn’t come clean on its reckless role in costing Adler his job, his career — as a freshly branded racist, he lost other TV tennis gigs — his reputation and quickly his health, suffering a stress-related heart attack at 58.

But this is what gutless leadership in an age devoid of common sense cultivates.

Years ago, I lunched with a since-departed ESPN/Disney executive who acknowledged that everyone at ESPN knew that “Sunday Night Baseball” analyst Joe Morgan had profound credibility issues, regularly inventing historical facts — even about himself — and offering in-game observations that were conspicuously untrue.

But the executive said he continued to indulge Morgan because he’s black and ESPN was afraid of the fallout of firing a black man.

I asked how that benefitted anyone, black or white, how that benefitted ESPN viewers, how that benefitted the advancement of qualified black analysts, how that benefitted anything good. Why be afraid of being called a racist when you long ago hired Morgan and kept him employed as he consistently embarrassed the network before an audience that knew better?

Why care if the ignorant call you racist?

He agreed, but repeated his illogical corporate fear. After all, much to the nation’s detriment, wrong or right has been replaced by black or white.

When ESPN finally let Morgan go, it also dismissed his white booth partner — popular, personable John Miller — curiously with the added benefit of avoiding claims of racism. So ESPN threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Meanwhile, Stephen A. Smith — a cartoonish blowhard who exploits his African-Americanism as both a cudgel and a shield as he specializes in rotten guesswork, comically ignorant “expertise,” a painful paucity of sports knowledge, polemics often delivered in chameleon-like urban dialects and desperate racial hustles — has become the face and boastful know-it-all voice, at $12 million per, of ESPN.

To deny there has been a worthless, even counterproductive double racial and gender standard — unattractive women need not apply — at work, and for years, within ESPN, is to be a viewer who can’t clearly see, hear and think. But ESPN has walked this transparent trail for years.

Perhaps the only amusing part of this Nichols versus Taylor tempest for millions in salary, title and now racial or “diversity” considerations, is that neither likely has made a single viewer tune in or stay put. Both seem to have devoted their training and airtime to pandering to athletes.

Heck, they’re a dime a dozen.

Shameful becomes ‘joyful’

Several years ago, ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza, on “Sunday Night Baseball,” explained excessive showboating as a Latin American cultural phenomenon, a way to express joy of accomplishment. Sounded like rationalized baloney. Still does.

It seems that many on-field hassles feature Latino players versus Latino players as such “joyful” immodest behavior rubs folks from everywhere the wrong way.

The infamous 2016 punch-out at second base of the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista, a Dominican, by Rougned Odor of the Rangers (now a Yankee), from Venezuela, was in response to a “joyous” home run bat-flip by Bautista. Many more such same-culture battles have followed.

Last week, the Braves’ excessively immodest, TV-approved check-me-out artist, Venezuelan Ronald Acuna, was hit by the first pitch of the game, by the Marlins’ fellow Venezuelan Pablo Lopez, who was ejected before Pitch 2. Go figure.

Small star games

MLB’s All-Star Game — like the NFL’s Pro Bowl and the NHL’s and NBA’s All-Star games — has become an event stars are eager to avoid.

As must-see TV, it has been lost to daily, played-out interleague play, what Bud Selig described as “a gift to fans,” while team owners gouged ticket-buyers to those games.

Whereas once there was genuine, once-a-year AL versus NL rooting interest — and whereas players and fans once gave a damn — the game has been homogenized, thus relegated to the “Who Cares?” bin.

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