NBA commissioner Adam Silver encouraged people attending the Sports Business Awards "not to stick to sports." Silver was accepting the trophy for League of the Year when he made the comments.
"I think there's never been a time when sports has been more impactful on society then it is today," Silver said.
He added that, "what we all do in this room matters," before encouraging people to embrace it and "use sports to build bridges and bring people together."
The comments come amid a divisive year in which the world of sports and politics have come to a head. In the NBA, Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham told LeBron James and Kevin Durant to "shut up and dribble" after the two made comments critical of President Donald Trump in a video. In March, The Kings responded to protests at their arena after the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark. This week, The Bucks issued a statement of support and call for more accountability after guard Sterling Brown was arrested and tased during a police stop over a parking violation.
In the NFL, the league has come under heavy criticism over national anthem protests. NFL owners voted this week on a new policy, which removes a requirement for players to be on the field for the anthem and gives players the option to stay in the locker room
The protests during the national anthem started in August 2016 when Kaepernick refused to stand for the 'Star-Spangled Banner' as a means of protesting racial inequality and police brutality. Dozens other NFL players, as well as numerous other athletes across America, ultimately joined him. The protests grew during the 2017 season after Trump criticized NFL players who chose to follow suit. Trump said owners should "fire" NFL players who protest the anthem and referred to them as "son[s] of b------". Players responded by protesting en masse.