The tension centers on a feeling by players that team owners look at them as business assets more than actual people, a viewpoint that several players have claimed has ugly echoes of slavery.
Warriors star Draymond Green and the Lakers' Lebron James, have spoken out publicly about the racial insensitivity of the term "owner" to describe NBA team leaders, in a league largely made up of African American men.
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Warriors co-owner Mark Stevens shoved Toronto Raptors' guard Kyle Lowry and yelled a vulgar phrase at him multiple times Wednesday night during Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
The NBA subsequently barred Stevens from attending NBA Games for a year and fined him $500,000. Stevens apologized to Lowry, the Raptors, and the Warriors for his actions.
On Thursday a reporter asked Lowry if the incident reflected the 'owner mentality' that Green has talked about, that players are viewed as assets and not people.
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"I can say for sure that guy makes me feel like that, you know Mark Stevens whatever his name is, makes me feel like he is one of those guys," explained Lowry at a Thursday press conference.
"He did what he wanted to do at that moment. And he wanted to push me and curse at me."
Lowry credited Warriors Draymond Green for first verbalizing this tension between players and owners.
"And you know Draymond, I remember him saying that I believe it's true. It is definitely... we call it the Board of Governors. But people in the world we call it 'ownership' but it should be changed."
Green's comments about the term 'owner' date back to 2017, when he composed this Instagram post:
"For starters, let's stop using the word owner and maybe use the word Chairman. To be owned by someone just sets a bad precedent to start. It sets the wrong tone. It gives one the wrong mindset."
Green's comments drew criticism at the time from Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks.
"For him to try to turn it into something it's not is wrong... He owes the NBA an apology. I think he does, because to try to create some connotation that owning equity in a company that you busted your ass for is the equivalent of ownership in terms of people, that's just wrong," Cuban told ESPN.
Green didn't back down and raised the issue again in 2018 on an episode of HBO's "The Shop", which is a Lebron James Production.
James spoke out about the incident on Instagram Thursday
"I couldn't and wouldn't be quiet on this!" wrote James "Just think to yourself, what if @kyle_lowry7 would have reacted and put his hands back on him. You guys would be going CRAZY!! Calling for him to damn near be put in jail let alone being suspended for the rest of the Finals all because he was protected himself."
Green didn't address this tension during Thursday's media availability, but praised Lowry for how he handled the situation
"For him to handle it the way he did says a lot about his character, a lot about him as a man and the way he handles himself. That was great to see the way he handled that."
Several NBA teams have already moved away from the ownership term, including the Los Angeles Clippers and the Philadelphia 76ers. Steve Ballmer of the Clippers is now listed on team's website as its chairman, while 76er's owners are now called managing partners. TMZ reports that several other teams are considering making similar changes.
Check out the latest stories about the Golden State Warriors and the NBA Finals.