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Harlem Globetrotters to NBA: Make Us an Official Franchise 'Right Now'

The Harlem Globetrotters wrote a open-letter to Adam Silver and the NBA on Monday, calling on the league to make the team an official franchise.

In a statement reinforcing the message of the letter, the Globetrotters called on the NBA to acknowledge the Globetrotters' contributions to basketball — namely to the NBA's integration — and said 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 details the Globetrotters' origins and how their players were the first Black athletes to sign to the NBA — effectively integrating the league. 

Businessman Abe Saperstein founded the Globetrotters in 1926, with Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, a former Trotter, becoming the first Black player to sign an NBA contract in 1950.

The organization also took credit for taking the "street game inside." 

"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 letter ends with the Globetrotters citing the NBA's fight for social equality as a reason why they should get a franchise, arguing that the NBA has profited for far too long off of what they had established. 

"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!" 

The NBA has not expanded since 2004, when the Charlotte Bobcats were added to the league. 

This past December, Silver addressed the topic of possible league-growth, saying, "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.”

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