NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league is "not in expansion mode at this time" despite growing interest from a number of U.S. and Canadian cities, according to Laura Armstrong of the TORONTO STAR. Silver, speaking ahead of the NBA Finals, added, "I'm sure inevitably at some point we'll turn back to expansion, but it's not on the agenda at this time." Silver said when the league does eventually discuss expansion, it would be looking at "not necessarily the short-term benefit of an expansion fee, but is it additive over the long term?" Silver: "Is that franchise adding something to the footprint of the league that the current 30 teams don't?" (TORONTO STAR, 5/31).
HITTING THE RIGHT NOTE: Silver also said that he "spoke with the Jazz" following a heated exchange between Thunder G Russell Westbrook and a Jazz fan in March and "thanked them for how they handled its aftermath." Silver: "I appreciated the way that they had handled it and that it was not going to be tolerated in the NBA." He added there is "always more we can do" in regard to improving the in-arena atmosphere. Silver said there is a "legitimate expectation" that when fans buy their ticket that they are "allowed to yell and scream when a guy's on the free-throw line or whatever else." Silver: "But then there's something else that we call it hate speech, which is clearly impermissible" (ESPN.com, 5/30).
KEEPING TABS: The AP's Tim Reynolds noted the NBA is "closely monitoring the ongoing trade dispute and tariff rift between the U.S. and China," but the league is "not yet worried that it will interfere with any business." The NBA's ties with China have "never been stronger," but the political ties between the two countries are "severely strained right now." Silver "sees these times as a chance for basketball to, again, bring cultures together" (AP, 5/30).
There was an "impressive cast of golfers from around the world" near the top of the leaderboard at the U.S. Women's Open on Thursday, as players "seemed to be making a point" about Hank Haney's comments on Korean LPGA players, according to Bill Fields of ESPN.com. Japan's Mamiko Higa shot a 6-under 65 to lead Germany's Esther Henseleit and American Gina Kim by one stroke, with Celine Boutier of France shooting 67. South Korea's Sei Young Kim and Azahara Munoz of Spain followed at 68, with American amateur Andrea Lee and Spain's Carlota Ciganda among those who shot 2 under. The LPGA had "spoken up for its tour" following Haney's insensitive comments made on his radio show Wednesday. Former U.S. Women's Amateur champion Emma Talley, who shot 70, said, "We're probably the most diverse professional sport. We're a worldly tour, so I think this is the best golf you're going to see" (ESPN.com, 5/30). In N.Y., Karen Crouse notes the first 12 LPGA events of the season have "produced winners from six countries," and six of the tournaments were "won by South Koreans." LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said that he "considers the global reach of the women’s game to be its greatest strength" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/31).
GLOBAL GAME: TSN.ca's Bob Weeks wrote if the LPGA is a "beacon of how golf should be and what its strengths are." Players from "scores of countries, speaking many different languages and carrying with them cultures and practices from around the world come together to share in a game that bonds them" (TSN.ca, 5/30). Golf Channel's Amanda Blumenherst called Haney's comments a "slap in the face" and noted the LPGA “embraces it’s a global tour, that it is a diverse sport.” Golf Channel's Robert Damron said of Haney, "You take something very positive, which is these Korean women working so hard to be great, and turn it into a joke” ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 5/30). GOLF.com's Michael Bamberger wrote under the headline, "Hank Haney Apologized For His Inane Remarks. So Let’s Move On, Right? No, Let’s Not." Bamberger: "Being a woman in this game so dominated by white male American men means you wake up every day with more work to do" (GOLF.com, 5/30).
MAKING A NEGATIVE A POSITIVE: In Chicago, Barry Rozner writes the women's game is "extraordinary right now and the fields are very deep, something Haney would know if he bothered watching any of it." In his attempt to "mock their playing ability and star status, Haney has given women's golf more attention than it has received in a while," attention that is "long overdue." Rozner: "The game is really good and the women are supremely talented" (Chicago DAILY HERALD, 5/31). Golf Channel’s Lauren Lewis said while this is not generating the type of "headlines we want moving into this week ... it does draw attention to the women’s game” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 5/30).
The NWHL "reiterated its plans to push forward" with the '19-20 season and "signaled that it would be willing to discuss a partnership with any group that plans to start a new league," according to Randy Johnson of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Earlier this month, more than 200 of the top women's hockey players in North America "vowed not to play" until a "financially stable league is established." The NWHL on Thursday said that all five of its teams -- the Minnesota Whitecaps, Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Metropolitan Riveters and Connecticut Whale -- "will return" for the upcoming season, which starts in October. But the league's plans to expand by two teams "might be on hold until the following season" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/31). NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan had previously suggested expansion "would include a team in Toronto and Montreal." But the league said that adding teams this season “remains an open-ended question for a few more weeks” and that the league continues to explore its options. The league also said that while the investment for two additional clubs has been "secured," it "wanted to take its time to 'expand properly.'" THE HOCKEY NEWS' Jared Clinton noted it is "possible -- and plausible -- that the change of course on expansion is tied to the decision" of the more than 200 players to boycott (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 5/30).
MLB's overall season-to-date average attendance is 26,854, 1.4% "below the 27,242 through this similar point last season," when the final season average wound up below 30,000 for the first time since '03, according to Ronald Blum of the AP. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred "attributes this year’s drop to fewer season tickets but emphasizes day-of-game sales are up 6%." Of the 30 teams, 19 have seen their average "fall from a similar point last year." The league's average attendance in '15 was at 30,517 "before sliding for three straight years." But Manfred "points to other metrics that please MLB: Games top prime-time cable ratings in 24 of 25 markets, and MLB.tv streaming is up 8.5%." Florida "remains a problem on both coasts." The Marlins are on track to have the "lowest home attendance in the National League for the seventh straight season." The Rays' attendance is at the "bottom of the AL for the fifth consecutive year" despite a 35-19 record (AP, 5/30).
CROWD CONCERNS: YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Owens wrote images of empty seats at ballparks "popping up on social media are becoming increasingly common as bad baseball and poor facilities are proving tough draws to lure people to pay for parking, tickets and exorbitant ballpark concessions over the course of a 162-game season." As MLB "struggles to gain the attention of younger fans in a sport that increasingly sees long stretches of play with no action, declining interest is a real problem." Lucrative TV contracts have "ensured the financial health of the game for the near future," but baseball "finds itself in a real battle to get fans to the ballpark" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/30).
ENJOYING THEIR BOUNTY: In Pittsburgh, Mark Belko in a front-page piece noted attendance for the Pirates has been on the "upswing through the first two months of the season, based on tickets sold." The team is averaging 16,820 fans per game over the first 24 home games, up from 15,810 per game "over the same stretch last year." In '18, the Pirates "posted their worst year attendance-wise since moving into PNC Park" in '01 (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 5/30).