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NBA commissioner Adam Silver comments on travel ban

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All Star Saturday Basketball

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver arrives at a press conference before NBA All-Star Saturday Night events in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. 

NEW ORLEANS – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is not in favor of the travel ban President Donald Trump has advocated for, he told reporters Saturday.

“Government restrictions on travel, I am concerned about,” Silver said at his annual All-Star Weekend press conference, held before the league’s Saturday night festivities. “It goes against the fundamental values and the fundamental ingredients of what make for a great NBA, and that is the very best in the world coming here.”

The president signed an executive order imposing a travel ban from seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Lybia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — but it was later paused in federal court. He says he is now revising a new executive order.

“I think that my personal view is, from a league standpoint, we have to look out for our league members,” Silver said. “We have two NBA players that were born in the Sudan. So my personal view is that we need to look sort of at specific cases and see how that potentially could impact members of the NBA family and then play whatever role we can in providing information to the government and monitoring the situation.”

Chicago’s Luol Deng and Milwaukee’s Thon Maker are both from Sudan.

The NBA has been open about wanting to grow on other continents, including Africa. And it just announced Saturday that it would be continuing the NBA Africa Game, during which African NBA players will scrimmage against ones from the rest of the world in Johannesburg, South Africa. The game will be held Aug. 8.

“I do have concern about travel bans,” Silver said. “Putting aside the justification for them for a second because I don’t have access to the same intelligence obviously or security information that people in the government do, but we are a business based on global mobility.

“As I said earlier, 25 percent of our players were born outside of the United States. We do a tremendous amount of business on a global basis, and if you think about what the NBA stands for, it’s, in essence, the very best all coming together, the very best in the world all coming together to perform at the highest level.”

The NBA has rarely taken exception to taking a political stance, especially with Silver as commissioner. The league moved this year’s All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans because of North Carolina’s HB2 law, commonly referred to as “the bathroom bill.”

Now, a similar bill, SB6, has been introduced into legislation in Texas. But Silver would not say if hypothetically passing SB6 would keep future All-Star Games out of Texas.

“We’d have to look at the specific legislation and understand its impact,” he said. “I mean, I’m not ready to stand here today and say that that is the bright line test for whether or not we will play All-Star Games in Texas. It’s something we’re, of course, going to monitor very closely.”

• Flat Earth: With the NBA world in physics hysteria after Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving’s comments that he believes the Earth is flat, a reporter decided to ask Silver for his theory on a concept proven true many, many years ago.

“Kyrie and I went to the same college. He may have taken some different courses than I did,” the Duke alum joked.

Silver spoke a bit more about Irving using his platform to provide commentary “on the sort of so-called fake news debate that’s going on in our society right now.” Of course, he ended with the truth and a smile.

“But personally,” he said, “I believe the world is round.”

Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as the host of the Locked on Thunder podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz. 

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