NBA general managers have been working for months on forming a professional association to collectively support executives and are working to finalize it in the wake of the investigation into the Portland Trail Blazers, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported.
The association would provide executives with access to legal defense funds, lawyer referrals and PR professionals, per ESPN. It would be similar to the National Basketball Coaches Association (NBCA). Many top executives are reportedly concerned that the Trail Blazers investigation is "creating a blueprint" for ownership groups to fire executives for any reason they want, then finding cause and thereby avoiding having to pay contracts.
Push for exec support comes amid investigations
The first steps began in March, but the investigation into Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey has "further convinced front office executives of the need for such an association," per ESPN.
Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes first reported the organization was investigating Olshey after employees alleged a toxic, hostile work environment that included intimidation, profanity-laced tirades and bullying tactics. The investigation is reportedly expected to conclude in a few weeks.
There had never been an official complaint filed to human resources until recently, Haynes reported. It came on the heels of a bombshell ESPN report alleging Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury owner Robert Sarver had made sexist and racist remarks while fostering a toxic workplace.
Report: Execs worried about Trail Blazers fallout
Amid declining revenues and attendance after the pandemic forced a shutdown, top basketball executives are worried teams will fire personnel for "cause" — such as a toxic work environment — when they want a new coach or front office and to void the remaining years and salary on the contracts.
Dozens of executives told ESPN that Portland's internal probe has stoked fears that organizations can make decisions to fire top basketball executives for any number of traditional reasons — team performance, personality conflicts, differing philosophies — and search simultaneously for ways to pursue "cause" violations in contracts.
The Blazers hired law firm O'Melveny & Myers to "conduct a fair and independent review" after the complaint was made against Olshey. Dozens of former and current employees have so far been interviewed.
The Blazers (8-8) have reached the playoffs for eight straight seasons, the longest streak in the NBA. Olshey signed a three-year extension in 2019 after the team's Western Conference finals berth. He's been with the club since 2012.