We had Sixers co-owner David Adelman on Crossing Broadcast Thursday.

Adelman is leading the development of the new arena project, proposed for a section of Market Street currently occupied by the Fashion District. As the arena discussions continue, you’ve probably heard the idea of a WNBA team playing at this facility, maybe as a way to fill the calendar on non-Sixers nights. We’ve floated the idea of the Sixers investing in a women’s team to help build favor for the downtown move, and Alex Coffey wrote a recent story in the Inquirer more or less lobbying Josh Harris to make it happen.

So we asked Adelman about all of that and here’s what he said:

Adelman: “We’ve talked about (WNBA). And even before I got involved with the team, Wanda Sykes is kind of leading the group looking to do the WNBA team. I’ve been deeply involved in discussions with them. I’ve offered to personally invest. But two things, one, I’m not going to bring a WNBA team right now and sign a second lease at the Wells Fargo Center. I’m already having issues in my current lease. And it’s no disrespect to them, but why would I enter into a second relationship? Number two, we feel strongly, and the NBA feels strongly, that the (controlling) owner of a WNBA team shouldn’t be an NBA owner. They want this to be the number one priority of the (ownership) team. There’s a lot of rhetoric coming from others out there trying to position us, (asking) why we aren’t doing it. There was a great article that came out about how Comcast can’t afford it. I mean, that was wild to me, the idea that their shareholders wouldn’t approve. I don’t know if their shareholders approved of the $400 million they just spent (on the arena upgrades), so the $50 million for a WNBA team shouldn’t be a problem. But as the landlord of our own building, we’re open to hosting the WNBA. Just as a landlord we would welcome them and think it would be great, the accessibility again, for people to get there, is unparalleled. But two, this rhetoric of the Sixers owning the WNBA team, I would just tell you that’s not where the league wants this to go. They want it to be another person where it’s what they’re getting up and thinking about every day. Not that it’s a (secondary thing).”

CB: Right, so they don’t want it to be some kind of side project. Some kind of pet project. Or that they’re just doing it because they feel like they have to do it (for moral imperative reasons). If you take that idea of ‘we should do it because it’s the right thing to do and we should have a women’s team,’ well the women’s team should get the same amount of attention. 

Adelman: We agree.

CB: So again, the idea of a pet project, that’s counterintuitive to what the WNBA is trying to do in the first place. Now, you were talking about the article in the Inquirer – the thing that I don’t think is fair necessarily is looking at HBSE as having to be the de facto investor in women’s sport. Comcast can invest in WNBA or NWSL. The Eagles and Phillies can invest. Other people can do it. 

Adelman: “Comcast can buy the WNBA, but again, it’s kind of a moot point, because if you talk to Kathy (Engelbert), the commissioner, they’ve kind of signaled that the next round of expansion, and no one’s quoted this, looks like Toronto and Oakland. I think that will be 2024 or 2025. You’re talking ’27, ’28, or ’29 until they’re even going to do the next round of expansion teams. So I’m not sure why we’re getting all stirred up. But on a personal level, I’ve committed that I’d throw some money into the deal because I think it’s important. I have two daughters and love women’s sport so it’s important to me. And Josh and David want to be supportive also. But to your point, the league wants this to be driven by an entrepreneur who is going to wake up every day only thinking about that business.”

You might read that and think, ‘well Josh Harris owns the Devils and Commanders in addition to the Sixers, so why is a WNBA team any different?‘ It’s not, but it’s the NBA saying that they would prefer their WNBA teams have unique and committed owners. As it stands right now, five of the 12 WNBA teams share direct ownership with their NBA counterparts (highlighted in bold):

  • Atlanta Dream – Larry Gottesdiener, Suzanne Abair and Renee Montgomery
  • Chicago Sky – Michael Alter
  • Connecticut Sun – The Mohegan Tribe
  • Dallas Wings – Bill Cameron
  • Indiana Fever – Herb Simon
  • Las Vegas Aces – Mark Davis
  • LA Sparks – Mark Walter, Magic Johnson, Todd Boehly, Robert Patton and Stan Kasten
  • Minnesota Lynx – Glen Taylor recently sold to Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore
  • New York Liberty – Joe Tsai
  • Phoenix Mercury – Mat Ishbia
  • Seattle Storm – Dawn Trudeau, Ginny Gilder and Lisa Brummel
  • Washington Mystic – Ted Leonsis

So it’s the Pacers, T Wolves, Nets, Suns, and Wizards sharing WNBA ownership. Back when the league was founded in 1996, all eight teams shared ownership with NBA franchises, which then changed in 2002 when the NBA allowed outside groups to invest in the women’s game. That’s resulted in a more diverse ownership setup in 2023.

Here’s the full WNBA segment with Adelman: