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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Adam Silver apologizes to TNT employees affected by NBA’s TV rights negotiations

NBA commissioner Adam Silver sits in the stands during an NBA game between the Sacramento Kings and the Philadelphia 76ers at Golden 1 Center.  (Tribune News Service)
By Sam Amick Athletic

BOSTON – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver apologized to employees at TNT who have been adversely impacted by the league’s ongoing television rights negotiations.

While most of the focus has been on the possible end of the network’s award-winning “Inside the NBA” studio show, Silver acknowledged the difficulties for the many people who work behind the scenes. According to The Wall Street Journal, the league is nearing an 11-year, $76 billion deal with NBC, Amazon and ESPN that would leave TNT on the outside looking in.

“I will say directly from me (to) the people that seem to be most impacted right now – the folks at Turner Sports – I apologize that this has been a prolonged process,” Silver said Thursday during his annual news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. “I know that they’re committed to their jobs. … No one likes this uncertainty. And I think it’s on the league office to bring these negotiations to a head and conclude them as quickly as we can.”

The talks impact TNT employees and those at the NBA TV network. Silver, who started working for the NBA just three years after “Inside the NBA” began in 1989, would not provide a public update on the talks but made it clear they are nearing a resolution.

“It has been difficult,” Silver said. “That show, in particular, is special. And I have a close relationship with everyone who’s on that show, from the time they played in (in Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal), and (Ernie Johnson) and I have been friends forever.

“At the same time, it’s not just the (on-air) talent, of course. I mean, there’s hundreds of people who are involved with what I still refer to as Turner Sports, who’ve been longtime friends and colleagues, and no different at the other networks. And on (the) one hand, from the league’s standpoint, it’s fantastic to be liked and to be wanted (by possible media partners) and to have multiple suitors.

“At the same time, it makes me uncomfortable that it’s zero-sum, that at the end of the day, there’s only going to be so many television packages. There are only so many Finals games and playoff games and regular-season games to distribute.”

Silver’s comments echoed those of Barkley, who has been outspoken about the situation in recent weeks.

“It’s people’s lives,” Barkley, who joined the show in 2000 and is expected to be a highly sought-after television free agent, told The New York Times in late May. “Not my life. Not Ernie’s life. Not Kenny’s life. Not Shaq’s life. But all the people who work here. We probably have 100 people who do work on the show. So they’re, like, real people.”