Civil rights leaders press NBA leaders on diversity issues

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders pressed for greater diversity in NBA front offices in a meeting with Commissioner Adam Silver on Wednesday amid discussions about racial issues raised by the ouster of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

A group including Sharpton, National Urban League President Marc Morial and incoming NAACP President Cornell Brooks met with Silver for more than an hour at the league’s Manhattan offices. They described the session as constructive and pressed for diversity in front offices and among suppliers.

“There must be serious dialogue around ownership and business engagement in the black community,” Sharpton said. “It is offensive that we only have one black majority owner in the basketball area when over 80 percent of the players are black.”

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NBA superstar Michael Jordan became the league’s only black majority owner when he took over the Charlotte Bobcats, now the Charlotte Hornets, in 2010.

The civil rights leaders praised Silver for his swift move to ban Sterling from the NBA and fine him $2.5 million over racist comments in a taped conversation.

Sterling’s wife, Shelly, concluded a deal last week to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The $2 billion deal still needs to be approved by NBA owners.

“We’re pleased that it appears that they’re on their way out as owners of the Clippers,” Morial said. “However, the larger discussion about ownership, supply diversity and the future of the National Basketball Association is what we as civil rights leaders are going to focus on with the NBA.”

An NBA spokesman did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the meeting.

The NBA championship series between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs starts Thursday in San Antonio.

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