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May 1, 2014

Open Letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver


May 1, 2014

Mr. Adam Silver
National Basketball Association
645 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Dear Mr. Silver,

We, the undersigned members of the Black Women's Roundtable, an intergenerational network of black women leaders from across the country, applaud you and the National Basketball Association (NBA) for taking decisive action against Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers after his recent racist and disparaging statements. The Black Women's Roundtable also acknowledges the NBA players, the NBA players' union, and sponsors for taking a stand against the unfortunate comments made by Donald Sterling.

The Black Women's Roundtable calls on all NBA team owners to ratify your decision to ban Donald Sterling from being a recognized owner of an NBA franchise for life for persistent and long-standing racist and sexist views. This will provide the NBA owners with an opportunity to show through their actions that they have a zero-tolerance policy against racism, sexism and misogynistic views by owners, as well as players, coaches and employees.

We believe controversies concerning racism and sexism provide an opportunity for dialogue and positive social change. In that regard, we call on the NBA to utilize this incident as a teaching moment for all professional athletic team owners across the sports spectrum and an opportunity to have a constructive dialogue on the issues of discrimination that continue to be pervasive in our nation.

While the discussion on racism in the NBA must continue, we are reminded that discriminatory acts do not exist in a vacuum. The comments made by Donald Sterling are only a microcosm of the prevailing beliefs held by some people in this country. These beliefs all too often manifest into discriminatory actions that continue to plague the lives of minorities and women and hinder the progress towards positive and productive race relations in this country.

As an example, Mr. Sterling was able to amass wealth through his ownership of an NBA basketball team, where many of the players are Black, and simultaneously block Black and Latino tenants from housing opportunities that would provide better lives for them and their families. This type of behavior is truly debilitating to fostering real change and creating pathways of economic opportunity for people of color to advance their communities.

There was a time when Black players were not part of the league because of racism and discrimination and while we have made progress in the management and ownership levels within the league, we know there is still much work to be done to close the inequality gap in ownership, employment and contracting opportunities in professional sports for racial/ethnic minorities and women. Therefore, the Black Women’s Roundtable will continue to partner with our civil rights organizations (National Action Network, National Urban League, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, NAACP and others) to monitor the various ladders to the upper ranks within the National Basketball Association available to African Americans, other people of color and women.

Finally, this serves as a reminder that while we have seen progress in all aspects of our society as it pertains to discrimination, there is still much work to be done to eliminate these evils. We have heard of other instances of racism and misogyny within professional sports and in other areas of society and will continue to take a stand against these issues and to educate others on why their words and actions are unacceptable and they deteriorate the gains we have won as a country. We are committed to these actions and others as they pertain to our goals.

Thank you again for your leadership. We look forward to working with you and the entire league to move progress forward in our nation.


Melanie L. Campbell
President & CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
& Convener, Black Women’s Roundtable

Barbara Arnwine, Esq.
President & Executive Director
Lawyers’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Monifa Bandele
Senior Campaign Directors,

Michelle Battle, Ph.D.
Member, Black Women’s Roundtable

Ms. Clayola Brown
President, A. Philip Randolph Institute

Rev. Marcia Dyson
CEO and Founder, Women’s Global Initiative

Lisa Fager
President & Co-Founder, Industry Ears
Senior Advisor, Black Youth Vote!

Spring Y. George
Certified Health Coach & Member, Black Women’s Roundtable

Nancy Harvin
Member, Black Women’s Roundtable

Janaye Ingram
Acting National Executive Director,
National Action Network

Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, Ph.D.
President & CEO, Incite Unlimited, LLC

Carol Joyner
National Policy Director,
Labor Project for Working Families

Tamika Mallory
Civil Rights Activist and Member,
Black Women’s Roundtable

Dee Marshall
Founder, Girlfriends Pray, Coach/Speaker/TV Lifestyle Personality

Rev. Dr. Judith C. Moore
Executive Director,
Sisters Saving Ourselves NOW/Girls Excel on Purpose

Sheryl Lee Ralph
Actress, Author, Founder,
The Diva Foundation

Dr. Elsie L. Scott
Founding Director,
Ronald W. Walters Leadership & Public Policy Center, Howard University

Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, Ph.D.
President & CEO,
Center for Community & Economic Justice

Joycelyn Tate
Member, Black Women’s Roundtable

Susan L. Taylor
Founder & CEO,
National CARES Mentoring Movement and Editor-In-Chief Emeritus, Essence Magazine

Makani Themba
Executive Director,
The Praxis Project

Robin Williams
Associate Director, Civil Rights & Community Action,

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner
Co-Chair, National African American Clergy Network,
Co-Founder & President, Skinner Leadership Institute

--Partial Listing as of 5/1/14—

cc: Chris Paul, President, National Basketball Players Association

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