Wednesday, Feb. 28, former NBA commissioner David Stern became the most recent sports personality to speak at the Drew Forum as a part of the In the Game Series. Commissioner Stern started with the NBA in 1966 and later served as the fourth commissioner of the league for 30 years, from 1984 until his retirement in 2014. Stern has been credited with the NBA’s massive growth, going from a mere 10 team league to a now booming powerhouse in international sports boasting 30 franchises from the United States and Canada. Some of Stern’s accomplishments included expanding the league to 30 franchises including the one in Canada, as well as the creation of the Women’s National Basketball Association.
Prior to taking the forum stage, Commissioner Stern hosted a half hour question and answer period with student athletes and journalists during which he touched on a myriad of issues.
When asked about his thoughts on Laura Ingraham’s comments on Fox News about Lebron James, in which Ingraham said James should “shut up and dribble” as opposed to voice his opinions about President Trump, Stern said, “Just because you’re an athlete that doesn’t mean you give up your rights as a citizen.” He continued, “It’s like asking me if I think athletes should vote.”
“As an American you should speak about whatever moves you. If you feel like speaking out on something then you should speak out.”
Commissioner Stern also noted his thoughts on Ingraham: “I’m very familiar with that particular group (Fox News), and I’m not a big fan of Laura Ingraham, but she and Lebron are entitled to their own opinions.”
“I just think the President is jealous because Lebron has many more social media followers than he does,” he added.
Some of the big headlines in sports today press on ongoing scandals plaguing the NCAA. When asked if he thought the NBA G-League could become an alternative for young athletes not looking to play in college, Commissioner Stern was clear. “I would hope so. It’s a complete fraud the whole thing.” He continued, “I’m a harsh critic of the NCAA for taking players that they know aren’t there to learn and in many cases, don’t go to classes in their second semester. Instead they put them in online classes just to finish the year so they don’t lose their scholarships.”
“So there is something very bad going on and everyone blames the NBA’s ‘one and done’ rule.” He adds, “Well the NBA doesn’t have a one and done rule; the NBA’s rules says players have to be 19; it doesn’t matter if they go to college.”
“In the NFL they require guys to have three years in college so I think having athletes wait a year after high school is a fair compromise,” he says, adding, “Although I think two years would be better.”
An enduring hot button issue among collegiate athletics is whether or not Division I athletes should be paid. Commissioner Stern offered his take on if he believes college athletes will be paid, saying, “My own view is that the dollar amounts have gotten so huge that it’s inevitable that they’re going to get paid.”
“When the athletes bring in so much money, especially with the March Madness tournament, there becomes enormous pressure to give them something.”
Commissioner Stern now joins physicist Neil Degrasse Tyson, comedian Samantha Bee, Mets legend Keith Hernandez, and former Obama campaign chairman and CNN personality David Axelrod as speakers at the Drew Forum for the 2017-2018 school year. The Forum’s 2017-2018 speaker series will conclude with former Vice President Joe Biden on March 28.
Photo courtesy of Karen Mancinelli