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Silver: NBA will keep eye on ‘bathroom bills’ across the nation

Silver: NBA will keep eye on ‘bathroom bills’ across the nation
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver arrives at a press conference before NBA All-Star Saturday Night events in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. Photo: AP Photo/Max Becherer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The NBA is continuing to monitor how states are handling laws regarding the protections of transgender people, with Commissioner Adam Silver warning that any less-than-inclusive policies will help the league decide where to hold All-Star Games going forward.

Silver, in his annual state-of-the-league address at All-Star Saturday night, said he has spoken with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper — whose state was originally set to host this All-Star weekend — about the controversial and divisive HB2 law, one that the recently elected Cooper has said he wants repealed.

And for other states considering similar measures, Silver said the NBA will watch them as well.

“Our values, our league-wide values in terms of equality and inclusion are paramount to this league and all the members of the NBA family, and I think those jurisdictions that are considering legislation similar to HB2 are on notice that that is an important factor for us,” Silver said. “Those values are an important factor for us in deciding where we take a special event like an All-Star Game.”

Texas is considering a bill that would be similar to HB2. Its version is known as SB6, with top Republicans in that state recently unveiling a proposal that would ban transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice.

It is one of many issues drawing the attention of both the league and its players, with many NBA stars — including LeBron James — speaking out repeatedly of late about the need for equality in society. And Silver, while not going as far to say that considering such a law would keep Texas from being considered for All-Star events in the future, made clear that the NBA is watching.

Next year’s All-Star weekend is in Los Angeles. Texas last hosted an All-Star weekend in 2013.

“I’m not ready to draw bright lines,” Silver said. “Clearly, though, the laws of the state, ordinances, and cities are a factor we look at in deciding where to play our All-Star Games.”

Silver also addressed another particularly divisive issue facing the country these days, the executive order signed by President Donald Trump that bans travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Saturday that Trump is working on a “streamlined” version of that order, and that the administration was surprised when U.S. courts blocked the original from implementation.

One of the seven nations affected by the order is Sudan, the homeland of NBA players Luol Deng and Thon Maker.

“It goes against the fundamental values and the fundamental ingredients of what make for a great NBA, and that is the very best in the world coming here,” Silver said.

In other matters addressed by Silver on Saturday night:

INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS: Silver is particularly pleased with the increase in international players in the league, noting that it’s now up to about 25 percent — and almost certain to continue rising.

“If you look at last year’s draft, nearly 50 percent of the players in our two-round draft were born outside of the United States as well,” Silver said. “So as this game becomes more global and the competition increases for these jobs around the world, it makes these positions in the NBA that much more coveted.”

Silver said a diverse league is a better league.

“The state of the league is as good as it’s ever been — the competition on the floor, the diversity of the players,” he said.

DOLAN-OAKLEY FEUD: Silver and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan recently met with former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley and Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan in an effort to smooth over their differences — which turned ugly earlier this month when Oakley was arrested at a Knicks game and briefly banned from the arena.

“While I’m disheartened that, at least based on media accounts, that it does not appear to be moving forward in a constructive way, right now I don’t regret that I had that meeting,” Silver said. “And if there is a constructive role I can play going forward, I’m available to do that.”

AFRICA GAME: The NBA announced earlier Saturday that it will play another Africa Game in Johannesburg this summer, and Silver said that enhancing presence on that continent is of particular importance to the league going forward.

“We’re extraordinarily motivated to grow the game in Africa,” Silver said. “We have 14 current NBA players that were born in Africa and many others who have a parent that was born in Africa.”

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