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CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: Former NBA Commissioner David Stern Speaks with CNBC's "Squawk Box" Today

WHEN: Today, Tuesday, September 9th

WHERE: CNBC's "Squawk Box"

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with former NBA Commissioner David Stern today on CNBC's "Squawk Box" (M-F, 6AM-9AM ET). Following is a link to the interview on CNBC.com: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000309149.

All references must be sourced to CNBC.

BECKY QUICK: WELL, AS IF DONALD STERLING WASN'T ENOUGH, THE NBA IS DEALING WITH ANOTHER CONTROVERSY OVER RACIST COMMENTS MADE BY A TEAM OWNER. ATLANTA HAWKS OWNER BRUCE LEVINSON AGREEING TO SELL HIS PORTION OF THE FRANCHISE AFTER SOME RACIST E-MAILS WERE LEAKED. HE BROUGHT THIS TO THE LEAGUE'S ATTENTION HIMSELF. JOINING US RIGHT NOW IS FORMER NBA COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN. ALSO WITH US OF COURSE IS OUR GUEST HOST GORDON GUND WHO IS THE CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF THE GUND INVESTMENT CORP. GORDON, WE SHOULD POINT OUT, WAS THE MAJORITY OWNER OF THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS FOR ABOUT 20 YEARS. IN FACT, HE DRAFTED LEBRON JAMES TO THE TEAM BACK IN 2003. COMMISSIONER, THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE TODAY. IT IS GREAT TO SEE YOU.

DAVID STERN: ALWAYS A PLEASURE.

GORDON GUND: I MIGHT ADD, BECKY, I WOULDN'T HAVE GOTTEN INTO THE NBA IF IT HADN'T BEEN FOR DAVID STERN. HE WAS DEPUTY COMMISSIONER THEN AND HE TWISTED MY ARM REALLY HARD TO BUY A TEAM THAT WAS ON ITS KNEES OR EVEN FURTHER DOWN.

STERN: YEAH. AND IN FAIRNESS TO MAKE THE STORY COMPLETE, HE MADE A HECK OF A DEAL. OK. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

JOE KERNEN: AND YOU GOT NONE OF IT, DID YOU?

STERN: RIGHT. USUAL FEE. HE WAS A TOUGH BARGAINER I CAN TELL YOU THAT. AND HE KNEW THAT WE DIDN'T HAVE MUCH ELSE GOING FOR US SO HE STRUCK THE RIGHT BARGAIN. BUT WE BOTH DID VERY WELL. THE LEAGUE BY HAVING GORDON WHO WENT ON TO BECOME CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, CHAIRMAN OF THIS, CHAIRMAN OF THAT. AND YOU HAVEN'T LIVED UNTIL YOU GET A PHONE CALL FROM GORDON THAT SAYS, DAVID, ON THE REPORT – ON THE DRAFT THAT YOU SENT TO ME ON PAGE FIVE, FOOTNOTE SIX. I WANT TO ARGUE WITH YOU ABOUT THAT. I SAID OKAY, GORDON. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT'S IN THERE. BUT I'LL LISTEN TO WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY.

QUICK: DAVID, IT SEEMS LIKE YOU GOT OUT OF THE HOT SEAT JUST IN TIME. THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT ISSUES THAT THE LEAGUE HAS HAD TO FACE THIS YEAR.

STERN: IT JUST TELLS YOU THAT SPORTS IS THIS PLACE WHERE PEOPLE GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS ISSUES OF OUR TIME REALLY. THEY DON'T FEEL THAT COMFORTABLE DISCUSSING THEM AT HOME, AT THE WORK PLACE AND A PERSONAL BASIS. SO SPORTS DOES ENGAGE THE WORLD IN SINGLE CONVERSATIONS ABOUT IMPORTANT SUBJECTS. SO, I JUST SEE THE NEXT ONE COMING AND COMING AND COMING. AND WILL ALWAYS BE COMING.

KERNEN: YOU DIDN'T HAVE TWITTER AND FACEBOOK EITHER, THOUGH. THANK GOD, DAVID. IT SORT OF JUST RAMPED UP THE VOLUME, I THINK.

STERN: YEAH, THAT JUST GOES TO – THAT'S RIGHT. ALL OF THE PRESSURE TO GET AS MANY FACTS AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN AND GET THEM OUT THERE AS FAST AS POSSIBLE BECAUSE BLOGGERS AREN'T COMPETING –

KERNEN: WE DEFINITELY WANT TO TALK ABOUT, I GUESS, THE STUFF IN THE NBA AND BASKETBALL. BUT I DEFINITELY WANT TO GET TO GOODELL AND RAY RICE AND EVERYTHING ELSE. BECAUSE I'M SURE YOU KNOW ROGER –

STERN: I'M GOING TO DISAPPOINT YOU IN RESPONDING. I MEAN, I AGREED TO COME ON BECAUSE I LOVE GORDON.

KERNEN: NO, I UNDERSTAND. BUT AS A COMMISSIONER YOU TRY TO DO – I MEAN, YOU CAN BE A REALLY GOOD GUY AND YOU CAN – IT'S A VERY DIFFICULT THING TO NAVIGATE, IS IT NOT? AND IN HINDSIGHT IT JUST MAKES IT SEEM SO – AND WITH A PLAYER NOT ONLY DO YOU WANT TO DO THINGS THAT ARE GOOD FOR THE SPORT, SO YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT ALL THESE DIFFERENT THINGS. BUT YOU ALSO GIVE A PLAYER THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT INITIALLY. NOW, WE KNOW IN HINDSIGHT WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS INCIDENT AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO MR. RICE AT THIS POINT.

STERN: I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT WHATEVER AS ROGER I KNOW BECAUSE I READ IT IN THE NEWSPAPER I HAVEN'T SPOKEN TO HIM SAID HE GOT IT WRONG THE FIRST TIME. AND THEY ARE TRYING TO COME UP WITH –

KERNEN: RIGHT, BUT THERE ARE CALLS FOR HIM TO LEAVE AND BE OUSTED AND ALL THIS HYPERBOLE. AND YOU KNOW, IT DOESN'T SEEM FAIR AT THIS POINT.

STERN: UNTIL THE NEXT PERSON DOES SOMETHING THAT THE MASSES THINK IS WRONG. I'VE BEEN – YOU KNOW, I WAS COMMISSIONER FOR 30 YEARS AND IF YOU THINK YOU CAN PLEASE EVERYONE, YOU CAN'T. AND IF YOU THINK ANYTHING YOU DO ISN'T GOING TO GET VERY STRONG OUTRAGE BY SOME CAMP, YOU CAN'T.

KERNEN: AND THERE'S TOUGH ISSUES. CONCUSSIONS, ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE REALLY, REALLY DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE AT THIS POINT.

STERN: WE'RE ON SEVERAL FAULT LINES INCLUDING THE ISSUE OF RACE.

KERNEN: RIGHT.

STERN: WHICH HAS ALWAYS BEEN PARTICULARLY WITH THE NBA AND I –

KERNEN: AND NOW DOMESTIC ABUSE, WHICH YOU KNOW, IS OBVIOUSLY –

GUND: SOME OF THESE HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR AWHILE, TOO.

KERNEN: AS YOU SAID, SPORTS FOCUSES –

STERN: AND BY THE WAY, IT IS GLOBAL. YOU KNOW, WHEN I'M SITTING THERE READING ABOUT OR WATCHING THE FACT THAT FANS IN EUROPE ARE ACTUALLY TAKING OUT BANANAS TO TAUNT BLACK PLAYERS AND YOU SAY ARE WE PAST THAT – IN SOCCER. AREN'T WE PAST THAT? WELL, THE ANSWER IS WE'RE NOT PAST THAT. WE'RE NOT PAST THAT, WE'RE NOT PAST ANTI-SEMITIC RANTS AT SOCCER GAMES. WE'RE NOT PAST A LOT OF THINGS THAT WE WOULD LIKE TO THINK WE'RE PAST. AND SPORTS IS THE PLACE WHERE THAT DISCUSSION ALWAYS WINDS UP TAKING PLACE.

KERNEN: I HADN'T THOUGHT ABOUT THAT. IT IS TRUE.

QUICK: YEAH, BECAUSE IT BRINGS OUT THE BEST AND THE WORST.

GUND: YEAH IT DOES. ONE THING THAT I THINK IS ALSO FROM A BUSINESS STANDPOINT EXTREMELY IMPORTANT IS PLANNING FOR YOUR SUCCESSION. AND I WOULD SAY DAVID HAS DONE – DID A MASTERFUL JOB WITH THAT. ADAM SILVER IS A GREAT SUCCESSOR TO YOU.

STERN: THANK YOU. ADAM IS, YOU KNOW, ADAM'S TRIUMPHANT SUCCESSION WAS FREE AT LAST. ADAM WAS – WE WORKED TOGETHER FOR 22 YEARS. IN OUR SORT OF LAST DINNER HE SAID I'VE HAD FIVE DIFFERENT POSITIONS, BUT HE DIDN'T SAY UNFORTUNATELY. BUT I READ IT AND THEY ALL REPORTED TO DAVID. SO HE'S DOING A GREAT JOB AND HE IS GOING TO BE A GREAT COMMISSIONER.

ANDREW ROS SORKIN: DAVID, WHAT I WANTED TO ASK YOU AND WE MENTIONED THIS IN THE 6:00 HOUR. THERE'S A TIME MAGAZINE ARTICLE KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR HAS PUBLISHED AN OPINION PIECE. THIS IS ABOUT THE LEVINSON SITUATION WITH THE HAWKS.

STERN: I READ IT.

SORKIN: AND HE SAYS THAT THIS WAS A BUSINESSMAN ASKING WHAT HE SAID WERE REASONABLE QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW TO PUT CUSTOMERS IN SEATS. HE SAYS IF THE ARENA WAS FILLED MOSTLY WITH WHITES AND HE WANTED TO ATTRACT BLACKS, WOULDN'T HE BE ASKING HOW HE DE-EMPHASIZE WHITE CULTURE AND BIASED TOWARDS WHITE CONTESTANTS AND CHEERLEADERS. HOW SHOULD AS A BUSINESS PERSON WHO OWNS A TEAM LIKE THIS WITH ALL OF THE RACIAL ISSUES THAT WE TALKED ABOUT, HOW SHOULD THESE ISSUES BE DISCUSSED?

STERN: WELL, THEY SHOULD BE DISCUSSED AS A MATTER OF ENCOURAGING DIVERSITY. DIVERSITY IN YOUR AUDIENCE, DIVERSITY IN YOUR WORKFORCE. DIVERSITY, DIVERSITY, DIVERSITY. AND I THINK KAREEM IS GREAT. HE'S AN AUTHOR, A SCHOLAR, A PRODUCER. HE HAS A PERSPECTIVE. BUT HE'S ALSO WALKING ON A KIND OF A FAULTLINE BECAUSE WHEN THE OLD BOY NETWORK, SUCH AS IT IS, SAYS, OH FOR BUSINESS PURPOSES I NEED TO HIRE ONLY PEOPLE THAT LOOK LIKE MY CUSTOMERS. IF THAT WERE THE CASE, THEN WE WOULD NEVER HAVE DIVERSITY IN THE WORKFORCE, IN ANY INDUSTRY THAT HAS THAT PERSPECTIVE. SO THIS IS A VERY INTERESTING BALANCING ACT THAT COULD USE SOME GOOD DISCUSSION AS OPPOSED TO GOING TO THE BUNKER HERE.

SORKIN: RIGHT, BUT I IMAGINE THE NBA AND OTHER TEAMS AND LEAGUES HIRE McKENZIE AND OTHER CONSULTANTS AND I IMAGINE THERE ARE CONVERSATIONS THAT SAY WE NEED TO REACH A SPECIFIC TYPE OF AUDIENCE, A SPECIFIC DEMOGRAPHIC GIVEN EITHER THE AFFLUENCE OR THE MONEY OR WHO THE SPONSORS WANT TO REACH. AND THE QUESTION IS SORT OF HOW TO HAVE THAT DIALOGUE IN A WAY THAT IS FAIR, REASONABLE, AND DOESN'T LEAD TO SOMETHING LIKE THIS.

STERN: RIGHT. WELL, I THINK IT REQUIRES A CERTAIN DEGREE OF DISCRETION IN TERMS OF HOW YOU EXPRESS YOURSELF. I HAVE TO SAY THAT. BUT YOU'RE RIGHT ABOUT ONE THING. WE TALK ABOUT WANTING TO APPEAL TO AN 18 TO 34 DEMOGRAPHIC. WE INDEX VERY WELL AMONGST A VERY DESIRABLY YOUNG AFRICAN-AMERICAN AUDIENCE THAT SETS TRENDS AND THE LIKE. DISCUSSIONS OF RACE GO ON ALL THE TIME. ON THE OTHER HAND, I REMEMBER – I WON'T SAY FIRING – STEPPING AWAY FROM A POTENTIAL SPONSOR WHO WAS ABOUT TO FIRE US BECAUSE THEY WANTED ONLY TO USE US TO REACH A VERY NARROW, "SPECIAL MARKETS" SEGMENT WHICH WAS ONLY AFRICAN-AMERICANS. I SAID WAIT A MINUTE, WE WANT TO APPEAL TO A MORE DIVERSE AUDIENCE, SO WE'RE ALWAYS HAVING THAT DISCUSSION.

SORKIN: BUT DIDN'T YOU PRESS THE PLAYERS AT ONE POINT TO DRESS UP? WASN'T THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU ENACTED? WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT?

STERN: YEAH, WELL, THAT WAS ABOUT SHOWING RESPECT FOR THE GAME. THAT WAS – WE FELT AND THIS WAS A JOINT DECISION BY A DIVERSE GROUP THAT SAID YOU CAN'T GO TO A GAME AND COME WALKING INTO THIS ARENA IF YOU'RE DRESSED LIKE YOU'RE GOING TO THE BEACH. AND SO THIS HARSH DRESS CODE WHICH WAS FOR A SHORT SLEEVE SHIRT, A COLLAR, A PAIR OF JEANS, AND A PAIR OF SHOES WAS, YOU KNOW, THOUGHT TO BE YOU HAVE TO WEAR TAILS. AND OUR PLAYERS, WHO ARE GREAT, WENT ONE BETTER AND NOW THEY LEAD FASHION. THEY LEAD THE DEVELOPING OF DESIGNER CLOTHING.

KERNEN: WHAT DID ATLANTA NEED? THE HAWKS? I HEARD SOME STATISTICS EARLIER FROM BRIGGS, TEN STRAIGHT YEARS IN THE PLAYOFFS AND THEY HAVEN'T SOLD OUT A SINGLE GAME.

STERN: WELL, ACTUALLY I THINK THEY NEED AGGRESSIVE ON THE GROUND ROUND LEADERSHIP AND MARKETING. THE CURRENT PRESIDENT WHO IS NEW, STEVE KOONIN, IS GOING TO PROVIDE EXACTLY THAT TO THEM. SO I'M OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ATLANTA. I THINK IT'S A GREAT MARKET. AND IT HAPPENS TO BE – IT'S A VERY DIVERSE MARKET. AND OUTSIDE OF LOS ANGELES IN TERMS OF THE CREATIVE COMMUNITY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CREATIVE COMMUNITY IN ADDITION TO THE ENTIRE CREATIVE COMMUNITY, IT'S A WONDERFUL COMMUNITY. AND I THINK IT'S GOING TO SEE GREAT SUCCESS WITH ITS HAWKS.

SORKIN: DO YOU BUY THE ARGUMENT THAT LEVINSON'S JUST TRYING TO – THIS IS JUST A WAY FOR HIM TO SELL?

STERN: NO. THAT'S – I DON'T BUY THAT AT ALL.

KERNEN: ANDREW, WAS HE ARGUING THAT THERE WEREN'T ENOUGH WHITE PEOPLE AT THE GAMES? IS THAT WHAT HE WAS ARGUING ABOUT?

SORKIN: THAT IS WHAT THE E-MAILS SUGGEST.

KERNEN: WOULD INCREASING DIVERSITY EVER MEAN BRINGING MORE WHITE PEOPLE INTO? I MEAN, IT'S – YOU DON'T LOOK AT IT THAT WAY. THAT'S NOT –

STERN: WELL, IF YOU GO OUT TO SELL LARGE NUMBERS OF SUITES AND BOXES AND CLUB SEATS AND HIGH-END SEATS, YOU ARE GOING TO GET A DIVERSE MIX. BUT IT'S PROBABLY GOING TO SKEW MORE TOWARDS CAUCASIANS THAN AFRICAN-AMERICANS JUST BASED UPON THE INCOME DISTRIBUTION IN THE AREA.

GUND: JUST GOING BACK TO YOUR 30 YEARS, I THINK WHEN YOU STARTED AS COMMISSIONER, THE LEAGUE REVENUES ALL TOGETHER WERE $118 MILLION, SOMETHING LIKE THAT. WHEN YOU LEFT $5.5 BILLION.

STERN: WHO'S COUNTING?

GUND: WELL, I'M COUNTING.

STERN: OK THANK YOU.

GUND: BECAUSE I WAS THERE FOR 23 OF THOSE AND I THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

STERN: WE FINALLY GOT RID OF YOU.

GUND: BUT ALSO, I THINK WHAT WOULD BE INTERESTING TO HEAR IS WHAT YOU THINK THE FUTURE OF MEDIA REVENUE, WHICH IS THE BIGGEST PART OF IT. WHERE DO YOU THINK THAT SET IN?

STERN: WELL, THE PRESSURE IS ON ADAM AND HE IS GOING TO RESPOND WONDERFULLY. THE NETWORK TELEVISION IS GOING TO, I KEEP READING IN THE PAPERS, IT'S GOING TO DOUBLE. AND MY GUESS IS, IF THEY SAY THAT, IT'S GOING TO BE MORE THAN DOUBLE. THE DIGITAL FUTURE OF THE NBA IS EXTRAORDINARILY BRIGHT BECAUSE OUR FANS LOVE TO CONGREGATE ON SOCIAL MEDIA. AND THE GLOBAL, AS WE – OPPORTUNITIES – AS WE SIT HERE, THE TALK IS WHETHER THE U.S. NATIONAL TEAM AND SPAIN WILL MEET IN THE FINALS OF THE FIBA WORLD CUP OF BASKETBALL WHICH IS TAKING PLACE IN SPAIN. AND NBA GAMES ARE IN OVER 200 COUNTRIES AND 43 LANGUAGES. SO, I THINK THE FUTURE REALLY, YOU KNOW, I DON'T WANT TO PUT TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON ADAM, BUT THAT NUMBER IS GOING UP BY A LOT. AND PEOPLE WHO ARE SAYING, OH THESE TEAMS ARE TRADING AT TOO HIGH A MULTIPLE ARE WRONG BECAUSE THE REVENUE FLOWS ARE GOING TO CONTINUE TO INCREASE GREATLY.

QUICK: DAVID, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING IN TODAY. AND OF COURSE, GORDON IS STAYING WITH US FOR THE REST OF THE PROGRAM.

STERN: I JUST WANT TO SAY, YOU HAVEN'T LIVED UNTIL YOU SKIED WITH GORDON.

QUICK: THAT IS WHAT I HEAR. DOWNHILL SKIING, RIGHT GORDAN?

GUND: RIGHT.

QUICK: THAT IS YOUR SPORT.

GUND: RIGHT. WE HAVE SKIIED TOGETHER AND HIS WIFE IS MUCH BETTER THAN HE IS.

STERN: ON SO MANY THINGS.

QUICK: THANK YOU AGAIN, DAVID.

STERN: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

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