There are "mixed reviews over the one-year suspension" given to Warriors investor Mark Stevens for pushing Raptors G Kyle Lowry during Game 3 of the NBA Finals, as some in and around the league believe he should have "received a lifetime ban and been forced to divest from the team," according to Gary Washburn of the BOSTON GLOBE. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that he had "never met Stevens," but decided to "offer the billionaire venture capitalist the benefit of the doubt." Silver: "Some may disagree with precisely what we’ve done, but I think speed (on a decision) is also critically important. I think that’s something that people have come to expect from us and even if it is for league officials, if it requires working through the night then we can especially in the middle of the series say, 'Here we are.' There’s been due process afforded Mr. Stevens" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/9). In Boston, Brian Robb wrote he "would be shocked" if Stevens "isn’t forced to sell his stake in the Warriors." The incident is a "black eye on the franchise that they will want to get rid of even after Stevens received a year suspension from the league" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 6/9). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon thinks there is "a move afoot" from the other Warriors investors "to force him to sell." ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said his "only aversion to that kind of thinking is I don’t want him nor anyone else lumped into the bowl as a Donald Sterling" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 6/7).
DID THE NBA GET IT RIGHT? In Pittsburgh, Ron Cook writes Stevens' punishment "hardly seems like enough." The "last thing the NBA needs is for a team official to be encouraging such violence" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 6/10). ESPN’s Amin Elhassan said Stevens deserves a "lifetime ban" because "thousands of people go to NBA games, sit courtside and have a lot to drink, and somehow they keep their hands to themselves" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN, 6/7). ESPN's Wilbon said the ban "should have been two years" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 6/7). The Athletic’s Frank Isola called the punishment "fair." Isola: "You combine that year suspension, the fine, plus just the embarrassment. Nobody knew who this guy was before he did this, now everybody knows he’s the guy who pushed Kyle Lowry (“PTI,” ESPN, 6/7). ESPN’s Dan Le Batard: “It's pretty punitive whether you're a billionaire or not to have it be $500,000, and you get to lose those seats during the Finals and you lose them next year, and you get national shame. That seems like about enough" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN, 6/7).
TIGHTENING THINGS UP: In Toronto, Doug Smith noted a hot topic this NBA season has been the "decaying of the respect level between fans and players." It is a "major issue the league has to deal with" and Stevens' punishment is "further proof of how seriously they’re taking and how rapidly they will react" (TORONTO STAR, 6/8). THE ATHLETIC's Sam Amick noted the number of fan bans is "on the rise" in the NBA. Sources said that the league and its teams have "banned five times as many fans" in this season compared to last year. The players are "demanding a better work environment" (THEATHLETIC.com, 6/7).
There is "no easy, quick fix to the officiating woes that have plagued and sullied" this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the NHL "wants us to believe that it's working on the problem that it won't officially label a problem," according to Kevin Paul Dupont of the BOSTON GLOBE. While the league is "pondering the fix, these horrendous calls are tearing apart the fabric and ruining the most essential element -- fan trust" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/9). In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote there is "no excuse for the NHL's dereliction of duty in overseeing and supervising" the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The "parade of scandalous errors made by on-ice officials has tainted the tournament." The "absence of accountability emanating from both" the NHL league offices in Manhattan and Toronto "has been unconscionable." Brooks: "What is the NHL's message here? We'll more or less protect you in the regular season (not all the time on head shots), but you're on your own, guys, in the playoffs when it counts most? Beautiful" (N.Y. POST, 6/9). The AP's Stephen Whyno wrote changes are "very likely coming to video review and how the NHL handles these situations moving forward" (AP, 6/8). In Phoenix, Richard Morin noted especially during these Stanley Cup Playoffs, the "embarrassing gaffes in officiating are nothing new for the NHL" (AZCENTRAL.com, 6/7).
F1 Dir of Marketing & Communications Ellie Norman became the organization's first female executive when she was hired in '17, and she believes diversity is important as the league goes about "growing the sport and to ensure it remains relevant in the long term," according to a Q&A with Walter Buchignani of the MONTREAL GAZETTE. Norman recently discussed F1's "transformation into a global entertainment brand focused on growing audiences and increasing fan engagement, while retaining its racing DNA." Below are excerpts from the Q&A, some of which have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: One of the first actions when you were hired was to replace the “grid girls.” Tell me about that. Norman: Diverse teams lead to better decision making, and we were able to have a frank conversation about where we want our sport to be in the future, and how we need to behave in order to remain relevant. And the role of grid girls just didn’t seem to fit with that anymore.
Q: So now there are “grid kids” instead. How did that come about? Norman: We introduced what we call our F1 FIA Future Stars. Essentially this is working with local promoters, schools and karting clubs to select 20 kids, typically between 8 and 12 years old, and give them the opportunity to stand on the grid with the drivers.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Netflix F1 series, "Drive to Survive"? Norman: It’s been phenomenally successful, and it presents a phenomenal marketing opportunity because it places F1 in front of an audience that is not necessarily made up of hardcore F1 fans. The super thing about the series is it really gets under the skin of the teams, the human drama within the sport, and it tells a story outside of what happens on the race track.
Q: F1 is expanding to new venues around the world, and some existing ones will be dropped. Where does Montreal stand? Norman: For us Montreal is a really important partner. We know there’s a superb spectacle being put here. When we think about North America, Montreal is a destination fans want to travel to. The teams and the drivers love to race here, and generally there’s a lot of excitement on the track (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 6/9).