Although the next SXSW is more than half a year away, the festival just released a pretty interesting piece of news. The Commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA), Adam Silver, will be the opening keynote speaker for the SXsports portion of the festival. SXsports is one of the convergence tracks of SXSW, that takes a look at the intersection between sports and technology:
Championing a broader perspective on the world of sports unique to SXSW, SXsports explores cultural impact and the human experience, tackles the future of sport in all its forms, and embraces entertainment and innovation. Rooted in one of the most influential cultural events in the world, SXsports offers the sports industry singular access to creative leaders, early adopters and die-hard fans from the forward-thinking convergence areas of their respective worlds.1
During this past SXSW, SXsports hosted some of the most interesting sessions of the whole festival. There was a session on the pre-draft regimen and training programs for prospective NFL players, a session on how MLS is incorporating technology into the stadium experience, and in our favorite SXsports session, NBA legend and TNT analyst Charles Barkley spoke about staying relevant in the digital age.
Silver, though only commissioner since February of 2014, has become, easily, the most well-respected head of a major sports league. The jury is still out on Rob Manfred, the current MLB Commissioner, as he only took over the office in January of this year. Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, has been mired in controversy since he took the office in 2006. Goodell’s tenure in this role provides a stark contrast to Silver’s, albeit short, leadership. Goodell has been criticized for being slow and weak on player discipline and his handling of off the field issues. Silver, on the other hand, has acted swiftly and decisively whenever the integrity of the Association has been challenged. The most notable of these challenges came in April of 2014 when TMZ released a recording of Donald Sterling, then the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, making racist comments about African Americans in general, with a few directed at Lakers legend Irvin “Magic” Johnson. Sterling acted quickly, banning Sterling from the NBA for life, and forcing the sale of the Clippers – ultimately bought by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Silver has proven to be one of the most open and forthcoming individuals that has ever led a major sports league. Further, the NBA has been rapidly upgrading, in terms of technology, with an eye on global growth. This should be an interesting session. Rebecca Feferman, the Head of SXsports, made a statement that speaks to this:
The NBA is already one of the most popular sports leagues in the world, and yet, since taking office, Commissioner Silver constantly welcomes new ideas to improve the game and harness the global sports audience…No topic is untouchable, and his willingness to break free of the status quo is something all our SXsports attendees can learn from and aspire to within their own experiences.