LOS ANGELES — The NBA is the league that banned former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life after he was taped uttering racist remarks, the league that saw Jason Collins become the first openly gay player in any of the four major North American professional sports leagues, the league that had the first full-time female assistant coach when the San Antonio Spurs hired Becky Hammon, and the league that moved its All-Star Game out of Charlotte after North Carolina passed anti-LGBT legislation.
At every turn over the past few years, the NBA has been the league lauded for its openness, its willingness to embrace social change, for valuing diversity, equal rights and inclusion. It has been a hallmark of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s four years on the job — an anniversary Silver celebrated this week.
But those actions have left the NBA expected to take a stand when such situations occur. And that’s why when the league descends on Las Vegas this summer for its annual Board of Governors meetings and Summer League, it can no longer be associated with the Wynn hotel and casino there in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations leveled at Steve Wynn.
Last month, The Wall Street Journal published a detailed report about a long line of workers at Wynn’s casinos who had dealt with harassment from the casino mogul. While Wynn has firmly denied wrongdoing, he has since resigned as CEO of Wynn Resorts and as the Republican National Committee’s finance chairman — all while a steady stream of reports detailing further instances of sexual harassment, or worse, continue to come out.
The Republican Governor’s Association has returned $100,000 it has received during this election cycle from Wynn Resorts, and has canceled a planned 2020 conference at his Las Vegas casino. In addition, it announced it would not accept contributions from either Wynn or his company in the future.
“These are serious allegations,” RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said in a statement last month announcing the decision.
The NBA should waste no more time similarly severing ties.
In response to an inquiry about the league’s status using the Wynn casino, Mike Bass, the NBA’s executive vice president of communications, told The Washington Post that, “The location of our summer meetings in Las Vegas has not been finalized.”
That’s all well and good. And perhaps all that means is that the league is getting its ducks in a row and figuring out where it will be holding its meetings this summer, and hosting its people, after using the hotel for the past several years as a base of operations during its annual summer get-together.
Between its use for both Summer League and Team USA activities in Las Vegas, the Wynn has become a de facto meeting place for players, media and executives to mingle and get business done whenever the league descends on the city. That includes teams that have stayed there during summer league, such as the Milwaukee Bucks. When contacted by The Post, the Bucks said they still haven’t decided what their plans are for this summer.
After recent news, however, that should no longer be the case.
Las Vegas, after all, is a city full of hotels, and with plenty of places capable of hosting the league and its teams. The difference is that the other properties in the city aren’t being operated by a company named after a man with a litany of sexual harassment allegations levied against him.
Some may argue that this is a different situation than the others the NBA has dealt with in the past. It doesn’t have a team in Las Vegas. Wynn is no longer the CEO of his company. Despite the many allegations against him, they remain just that — allegations.
The obvious counter is that the NBA has put itself in the position of being expected to act in these types of situations by the prior actions it has taken under Silver’s leadership. In a time when the rights of women are being championed, what kind of message would it send for the league — not to mention all of the players in the WNBA — to remain associated with Wynn properties after these allegations?
To that end, this was part of Silver’s response in his decision to ban Sterling from the league: “The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful; that they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage.
“Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league.”
Sterling — after decades of offensive behavior — was thrown out of that league.
And this was the NBA’s statement in the wake of North Carolina’s passing of the anti-LGBT legislation in 2016, and before the decision to move the game was made: “The NBA is dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for all who attend our games and events. We are deeply concerned that this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality and mutual respect, and do not yet know what impact it will have on our ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.”
It turned out the league couldn’t successfully hold the All-Star Game there — at least not until the law was changed to a point the league could be satisfied enough to hold next year’s game there.
For a league that has done so much to promote diversity and inclusiveness and equal rights in recent years, when it comes to its dealings with the Wynn hotel properties, there is only one right decision it can make.
It should no longer be using them.