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  • How does Adam Silver feel about dropping the NBA’s age minimum to 18? How about the problem with abusive language from fans? The Commissioner joined the Crossover podcast to discuss some of the league's current issues.
By Chris Mannix
April 25, 2019

As the NBA continues to trend upward in popularity, there's still a bunch of issues that surrounds the league as a whole. This year alone we have seen a crackdown on fan interactions with players after the verbal abuse Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins received. The issue of the NBA draft age limit has also been a popular topic with the emergence of criminal proceedings around the NCAA and shoe companies. 

On the latest Crossover Podcast, Chris Mannix sits down with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to dissect the biggest issues around the league, including solutions for better fan interactions and the age limit to the enter the NBA draft.

(Listen to the latest Crossover podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Chris Mannix: I have to start with some of the unpleasantness that's gone on in fan interactions. You've always valued the connectivity the players have with the fans and in recent weeks, Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins have had some interactions with fans, what has been your reaction to that and is there any steps the league is taking going forward?

Adam Silver: My reaction is you never want to see things like that happen. I will say I'm just as sensitive about the fans and our customers in the arena as of course as I am about the players. And, you've written about this before. We just need to find that right line because I don't want to also suggest to the fans that once you come into the arena you've got to put tape over your mouth.

I mean I think even the players and coaches recognize that there's something. Heckling seems like an old fashioned term and I'm not sure what all the connotations are around it, so I want to make clear when I say heckling, I mean the stuff that is appropriate that you pay your money you come and you get to cheer for your team, you get to boo the referees or the opposing team or whatever else you want to do but it doesn't cross a line with hate or abusive language. I think abusive is more accurate and that we always have to focus on where that line is.

And truth be told that line has changed and I think in terms of what's acceptable certainly I've been in the league since the early 90s. I mean what I think some people aren't aware of what used to be yelled and screamed at players at coaches back then would never pass muster today. And I think also there's a realization that there are eighteen thousand high definition cameras now in the arena and that's everybody holding up their cell phone. And I think that's a good check on fan behavior because people realize they're not going to get away with anything. So again I think we're always looking to appropriately calibrate.

There are things that we've done because of those recent incidents. We have a code of conduct. I mean people are aware in arenas for those seats in the lower bowl. There are cards on their seats and so it's a reminder the code of conduct. We have a strict one warning policy. I mean you can be thrown out for the first time doing something. But generally if fans are out of line they get they get a warning and next time they're out. And what we've done is we've added additional personnel to our arenas. We've put more notices on seat so everyone knows just knows where that line is. We want to create an environment that's great for the players and coaches and for the other fans as well.

Mannix: We're coming off the NCAA tournament and years from now it could look entirely different if some of the rule changes you've talked about go into place. Back in February, you submitted a proposal to the union about dropping the age minimum from 19 to 18. Have you had any feedback from the union? Where do we stand with that?

Silver: It was actually in September when we made a proposal and I think with most things with the Players Association, I think it's critically important we negotiate behind closed doors, so it doesn't become sort of a back and forth in the media. I would just say we continue to talk to them about it. I think we both have different issues that we're focused on. I think there is a general agreement I will say that 18 is probably better than 19 at this point. I say probably only because I was also part of the negotiating team that that advocated moving from 18 to 19 and even as recently as five years ago when I first became commissioner, I thought we were better off at 20.

But again the world has changed a lot even in the last five years and the Condoleezza Rice commission came in. There's been the additional very public criminal proceedings brought against people who've been involved in college sports in the most recent issues around the shoe companies. So I am of the personal view on that on balance we would be better off going from 19 to 18 at this point. That's not a clearly held view by many of our teams. I can understand. If I were a general manager or President basketball and my job were to draft players I'd want him to be 25. I mean of course the more that you see them play under top notch competition and conditions presumably the better the draft is going to be. And it makes the draft a little riskier even when we get younger.

I think that our ability if we go to 18 and we can work issues out with the NCAA where they adjust their eligibility rules so it's clear that at a younger age in terms of the top cohort who are pretty clearly identified as you know that we can get more engage with them in terms of helping them develop their game and help them develop them themselves personally, physical health, mental health, dealing with stress etc. and help them be in a better position when they come into the league. We're going to continue discussing this issue with the Players Association and I'm hoping that we'll make some progress.

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