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Nets exec: Prokhorov has faced 'ridiculous' criticism

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Mikhail Prokhorov, as owner of the Brooklyn Nets, has had to overcome negative stereotypes about Russians, says a team executive at a Leaders in Sports conference.John Minchillo/AP

Mikhail Prokhorov, as owner of the Brooklyn Nets, has had to overcome negative stereotypes about Russians, says a team executive at a Leaders in Sports conference.

Mikhail Prokhorov has faced “ignorant people” who’ve used stereotypes to criticize the first foreign owner of an NBA team, according to a top Brooklyn Nets executive.

Irina Pavlova, speaking Thursday at a Leaders in Sport conference in London, was asked about Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan being associated with terrorism because of his Pakistani background, and whether Prokhorov had experienced anything similar as a Russian owner in the U.S.

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“Early on, definitely. And again, still I read some stuff in the press and ignorant people will say what they say,” responded Pavlova. “They are stereotypes that all Russians are crooks, they come in with suitcases with money. It’s hard to say anything to this. It’s just ridiculous.

“But it’s something you have to deal with and I think if there were any doubts about if our owner is serious or if he’s a businessman early on, I think with experience and basically showing people what you’re about, that’s when those doubts dissipate. But there’s always going to be people who say things that are just ignorant.”

While Pavlova mentioned the media as the perpetrator of ignorance, it was an investigation by the NBA two years ago that had Prokhorov defending his integrity and citing “old stereotypes.”

After signing fellow Russian Andrei Kirilenko at a bargain price in 2013, other owners and executives expressed their circumstantial fears that rubles were being passed under the table to bypass the CBA. The league’s investigation found no illegalities.

“I think old stereotypes are very hard to break,” Prokhorov said at the time. “I want to thank our fans and members of the press because they have been very good to support us. I respect the NBA rules and will play by the NBA rules. I want to stress once again, about the luxury tax, I will do whatever I can, but under the NBA rules.”

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Similarly, Kirilenko surmised that any accusations of shadiness were the product of “the history of Russia and the KGB.”

Pavlova, the president of Prokhorov’s Onexim Sports and Entertainment, is also Russian, but her standing as one of the highest-ranking females in professional sports was more pertinent to Thursday’s panel. Many of the topics were about attracting more females to sports, and the challenges of being a minority in the industry.

Pavlovla said her Board of Governors meetings serve as the biggest reminder of the overwhelming maleness. Still, she said, it’s an advantage to be the only female in those circumstances.

“There are 30 teams in the NBA and my boss, the owner of the Nets, Mikhail Prokhorov, is the only foreign owner so he’s the only one not actually present at the table and I represent him. So I’m definitely surrounded by more men than I would be in probably any other industry,” she said. “But I also find it to be an advantage because when there’s only a few women in the room – and there’s probably only two or three of us at any given moment. When you speak up, men actually listen because they’re curious what women have to say. And they might be talking over each other when they’re discussing something but as soon as I speak up, they actually listen. It comes to confidence and I think it just takes a while to get there. I’ve been lucky. As I’ve said, I’ve been in this industry that’s mostly male-dominated and I really haven’t had any problems related to fellow NBA owners.”

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