NBA challenged to kick out Pistons owner, referred to as “a prison profiteer”
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NBA challenged to kick out Pistons owner, referred to as “a prison profiteer”

The only category you won’t find any futures on are team owners. We don’t have “owner of the year” or “most improved owner.” If we had them, the most interesting category would be “first owner fired.” Well, more like “first owner expelled.”

Until recently, James Dolan would lock it in every year, but Tilman “Shut up and listen” Fertitta is doing his best to challenge the throne. While there’s fierce competition at the top (or bottom, depending on how you look at it), gamblers will tell you the secret is to find a sleeper candidate. Someone with the best odds and probability of being a winner. This year, that could be Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores.

This is a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of the New York Times in which a non-profit advocacy organization, Worth Rises, is calling upon the NBA to force Tom Gores to sell the Pistons. Gores’ private equity firm, Platinum Equity, owns one of the nation’s largest prison telecom corporations, Securus. Here’s their online petition in full

Securus rakes in more than $700 million annually by price-gouging families — disproportionately Black, Brown, and low-income — struggling to connect and support incarcerated loved ones. The corporation routinely charges as much as $15 for a simple 15-minute phone call, and piles on sky high deposit fees, among others. Securus then pays correctional administrators and sheriffs millions in kickbacks every year.

As a result of Securus’ predatory practices, which Tom Gores has authorized, one in three families goes into debt trying to stay connected to a loved one behind bars, and 87 percent of the people carrying that burden are women, largely women of color.

While advocates around the country have fought to stop Securus from exploiting families, Gores has done little to help those his decisions have harmed. For our part at Worth Rises, we delivered our demands to Tom in March of 2019 with deadline of end of year 2020 to divest from Securus. We then spent nearly a year in conversation with Gores and his team to no avail. And in January, Gores cancelled a meeting with directly impacted families.

He is a prison profiteer who has no place on the board of one of our nation’s favorite cultural institutions: the NBA. Gores should not be allowed to whitewash his active exploitation of marginalized communities by simply asserting that Black Lives Matter, especially in the U.S. city with the highest percentage of Black residents. Gores has to go!

We’ve seen many problematic owner behaviors that didn’t result in an owner being forced to sell. Donald Sterling had a long history of horrible moves, but it took a racist recording involving Magic Johnson for the forced sale to Steve Ballmer. Even that sale didn’t happen because of the call – check out Ramona Shelbourne’s awesome “30 for 30” podcast on that. As much as I support the sentiment and the case Worth Rises is making, this won’t happen.

I suspect Detroit fans wouldn’t mind getting a new owner. A resident of Beverly Hills, Gores doesn’t even show up for all home games. Then again, neither do the fans. The Pistons are dead last in attendance at 75.9%, particularly after they moved to their new arena in Midtown.

The Pistons invested over $50 million in renovating the legendary Palace at Auburn Hills, but at the last minute opted to join the Red Wings (NHL) in the new arena in Midtown and demolished the Palace. Now they play in an arena built for an NHL team. Why did they move? To increase attendance.

The Times ad is the last in a line of calls for consistency towards the NBA. They virtue signal support in the fight for racial equality, yet their owners make money off that inequality. The latest report on the treatment of Uighurs in China will continue to create pressure for the league when it comes to their business in that country as well.

This season is all about COVID-19, with the expectation being we will return to normal in ’21/’22. I hope that’s true when it comes to the global pandemic we’ve been living through, but it doesn’t mean the NBA has smooth sailing ahead once COVID-19 is put behind us.