The NBA has moved away from the term “owner,” as recently confirmed by Commissioner Adam Silver. Gayle Benson, who owns both the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans and the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, has no plans to refer to herself as anything but an owner.
Via Nathan Brown of the New Orleans Advocate, Benson issued a statement indicating that she does not plan to change her title as “owner” of either team, even though she acknowledges that she is more of a “caretaker” of the franchises.
“As with any word, phrase or expression, interpretations can be perceived differently,” Gayle Benson said in the statement. “That is in many ways why diversity, inclusion and openness is so important to companies and society. As with any expression, my intention and the intentions of the organization I am responsible for is never to be insensitive or insulting.”
Silver has said that the NBA “moved away from that term years ago at the league” level, and that the NBA now refers to “team owners ‘governor’ of the team and ‘alternate governor.'” Silver said that he has perceived “mixed reactions from players regarding the use of the term, which has received criticism over the years for having racial connotations.”
Gayle Benson doesn’t believe that a racial connotation, or any degree of sensitivity, exists.
“I truly believe daily actions speak very loudly, and it is my sincere hope that the players and staff know how much I care for them and their families,” she said in her statement. “I sincerely hope no term that attempts to define my corporate standing would in any negative way suggest a lack of caring, respect or admiration for that they accomplish every day — leaders, teammates, colleagues, parents, mentors, citizens.”
Gayle Benson inherited the team after the death of her husband, Tom.
“I have said over and over I don’t see myself so much as an owner but more of a caretaker to the incredible assets that I have been so fortunate to lead,” Gayle Benson said in the statement. “My intention has and continues to be building on my husband’s legacy, making the assets better and creating a better community for our employees, fans, and citizens.”
This isn’t an easy question, because there’s nothing immediately or obviously offensive or problematic about the term “owner.” The context, however, can give rise to discomfort. Thus, if it’s easy to come up with a different label that means the same thing, why not do it?
Who does it harm if the term is slightly modified? If any actual or perceived harm comes from the use of that term given the reality that most “owners” are white and most players (in both the NBA and NFL) are not, the easy — and right — thing to do is come up with a different word.
It’s really not that difficult. What’s far more difficult, frankly, is getting really rich and powerful people to do something they simply don’t want to do, usually because someone far less rich and/or far less powerful is trying to get them to do it.