On Monday, the Harlem Globetrotters addressed an open letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, requesting that the team be recognized as an official franchise.
The Globetrotters issued a statement reiterating the letter’s content, urging the NBA to recognize the Globetrotters’ accomplishments to basketball, namely the NBA’s integration, and stating that they are ready to negotiate for a franchise.
“As an organization whose storied history is already tightly interwoven within that of the NBA, the Harlem Globetrotters are looking for a long-overdue seat at the table, Jeff Muun, executive vice president and general manager, said in the statement. “Our players were instrumental in the integration of the league dating back to 1949. We stood proudly as our players were recruited by NBA teams.”
The letter goes into detail about the Globetrotters’ history, including how its players were the first African-American athletes to sign with the NBA, essentially integrating the league.
The Globetrotters were created in 1926 by businessman Abe Saperstein, with former Trotter Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton becoming the first Black player to secure an NBA contract in 1950.
The organization also claimed responsibility for bringing the “street game” indoors.
“Don’t get us wrong, we love what y’all have done recently, and we are proud of how your players are standing up to make a difference in their communities,” the letter read. “But don’t get it twisted; basketball would not be what it is today without us. You’ve played games in 17 countries. We’ve played in 122. We brought basketball to the world stage.”
The Globetrotters concluded the letter by mentioning the NBA’s struggle for social equality as a reason why they should be granted a franchise, claiming that the NBA has profited for far too long off of what they have built.
“So, if you really believe what you’ve been saying about social justice, going back to ‘normal’ needs to look different,” the letter read. “You can’t just act like we don’t exist anymore. It’s time to right the wrongs and rewrite history. It’s time for the NBA to honor what the Globetrotters have done for OUR sport, both here in the U.S. and around the globe.”
“Based on what we’ve already proven, we can field a team of talent on par with the pros of today, and we want the chance to do that. As a world-renowned and legendary professional basketball team, we petition commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA governors, and the powers that be to grant The Original Harlem Globetrotters an NBA franchise. Not now, but right now!”
Since Charlotte Bobcats joined the NBA in 2004, the league hasn’t expanded.
Silver said in December on future league expansion, “I think I’ve always said that it’s sort of the manifest destiny of the league that you expand at some point. I would say [the coronavirus pandemic has] caused us to maybe dust off some of the analyses on the economic and competitive impacts of expansion. We’ve been putting a little bit more time into it than we were pre-pandemic but certainly not to the point that expansion is on the front burner.”