NBA sells out uniformly

Is nothing sacred?

As sports fans, we like to sit in the stands or in front of our television sets and believe everything we’re watching is real, that the players we adore are giving it their all and the franchises we’ve loved unconditionally for so long are as dedicated to winning a championship as we are dedicated to them.

That all sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it?

Roger the richWinning might cure all ills but each and every professional sports franchise is looking to turn a profit.  After all, they have light bills to pay too.

One would think that the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball are doing fairly well for themselves.  I mean, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made $34 million last year and he’s a buffoon.  Major League Baseball, a sport which most of us consider not as watchable as it’s been in the past, reported record revenue last year.  If sports leagues were doing so poorly financially, we wouldn’t have athletes in strip clubs ‘making it rain’ with the frequency of which Portland actually gets rain.

The almighty dollar drives most everything in this country.  That includes professional sports.  Advertising dollars decorate stadiums and the contracts they negotiate for those rights are beyond most of our comprehension.

But we’d never expect IBM to place an ad on a Yankees uniform.  Apple is one of the most lucrative stocks and companies in US history but we’re not about to see them place their logo on a Steelers helmet.

That would be sacrilegious.

Well, for years now, the NBA powers that be have been flirting with putting advertisements on their jerseys, like soccer uniforms, and golf shirts, and tennis gear and NASCAR cars and uniforms.

Adam SilverAfter much debate, it now looks like this might happen.

Channeling his inner Stern, Commissioner Silver is doing his almighty best to calm the purists by saying things like “it’s only a little patch” and that “this isn’t going to affect competition.”

Silver is smart enough to get the point.  So are we.

This is about money.  And as much as I get that, I can’t help but think this isn’t the league selling out.

Is Coca-Cola now going to sponsor your Atlanta Hawks or General Motors your Detroit Pistons?  I’m pretty sure they already dump a hell of a lot of money into those teams.  I don’t need a constant reminder of that every time Andre Drummond dunks a basketball.  Chico’s Bail Bonds sponsoring the Bad News Bears is one thing.  Sears sponsoring the Chicago Bulls is quite another.

Chicos Bail BondsIs the league hurting for cash so much that it needs yet another glaring, if not offensive, source of revenue?  How much is a “sponsor” paying for that space and who’s getting all that money?  For example, what percentage is the players association getting?  What percentage are owners getting?  When does the madness end?

I’m trying my darnedest not to sit on my high horse.  After all, this website posts sponsored articles.  One could make the argument that they dilute the content.  (Of course one could also make the argument that the content of this site is already pretty well diluted.)  But this website also isn’t a multi-billion dollar industry (yet).  This website doesn’t draw millions of adoring fans a year spending their hard earned dollar on swag (I’m just shy of that number).  And I have turned down offers that I feel don’t adhere with my general sensibilities.

I guess the question is does the league selling advertising space on its uniforms compromise the integrity of the sport, regardless of what particular line of bullshit the Commissioner and the owners he represents are trying to feed us.

I’m trying not to make a big thing out of this.  After all, NASCAR is one of the most watched sports in this nation and you can barely find a blank space on either a driver’s uniform or his car to stick another iron-on patch.  So what’s the big deal about LeBron walking around with STP on his headband?

Jimmie JohnsonI’ll tell you what the big deal is.

In those other sports, companies sponsor players, not franchises.  Companies sponsor Roger Federer, Phil Mickelson and Jimmie Johnson and before you go throwing soccer out as an example, let’s talk about a sport Americans actually watch.

Something just seems amiss about the whole thing, like a league trying to squeeze every last dime it can.  Isn’t the NBA charging exorbitant amounts for ticket prices, not to mention what it charges for paraphernalia, food and beer within the stadiums, along the television and advertising revenue it already brings in?  Is that not enough to cover expenses?  Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m not the one who told Houston to pay $22 million for Dwight Howard.

I think there comes a time when owners, players and all those responsible for making these decisions can get together and say “Ya’ know what?  The x billion dollars we’re making a year is enough.  We can continue to grow the game but not by sacrificing certain core values.”

Heck, everything else in your NBA arena has a logo on it.  Shouldn’t there be some things that remain strictly NBA.  Is the brand strong enough to stand on its own?

All the NFL does is talk about ‘protecting its shield.’  Players get fined for wearing Breast Cancer Awareness apparel that doesn’t coincide with the league uniform.  The NBA doesn’t make nearly as much money as the NFL but can you imagine the NFL breaking down and putting a sponsor on its uniforms?  That would be the ultimate sell out.  With the NBA considering this, however, how far away can other sports be if this proves to be a successful business model?

Maybe a little patch here and there isn’t that big of a deal.  Maybe it doesn’t aggressively symbolize that the sport is more about making a buck than anything else.

Or maybe this is just the next domino to fall.

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19 Replies to “NBA sells out uniformly”

  1. General Motors is a sponsor for Manchester United to the tune of almost 50 million a year. They do it all over Europe, why not here?

  2. What the NBA will discover that NASCAR has to deal with constantly is sponsor conflict. NASCAR had a problem when Nextel/Sprint became the title sponsor of their top series. Jeff Burton’s primary sponsor was AT&T; Ryan Newman was sponsored by Alltel. Both of those teams were told to find new sponsors at a time when finding primary sponsors was difficult. I’m sure that many NBA players have individual personal services contracts with sponsors. What happens when McDonald’s wants to sponsor Team X, but Player Z has a personal services contract with Burger King? Between players, Players’ Association, team owners and the league, it could end up getting messy.

  3. So, KS, you don’t have a problem with a Miami Heat uniform being decorated with another slew of advertisements?

    And if they continue to raise your ticket prices or charge you fifty bones for a double Bacardi and double Goose? #goodtimes

    I’m not naive enough to think money doesn’t make the world go around. I just think some things are better left alone.

  4. Another interesting point, Beag, although I’m sure the league wouldn’t mind a hefty bidder warfare.

    I can almost picture Silver standing up at the auction podium now.

  5. Too bad Peyton Manning has left the building…Papa John’s would have been glad to advertise on his jersey. And if Johnny Manziel could get back in the league, I’m sure his choice of liquor would be glad to show off on his apparel. The slope is indeed slippery – teams / franchises sign these agreements with the Nikes & Under Armours and force players to wear their gear while letting them them advertise for the other brands off the court / field.

  6. I hear what you’re saying Chris but this was coming for a long time. As NBA owners see the increased popularity of world soccer in the U.S. and the number of kids who walk around in EPL or LaLiga kits, they realize this upcoming generation of sports fans have no issues with corporate sponsorship of team jerseys.

    I’m not a fan of it but I’m not going to rail against it either. I lost interest in NBA jerseys once they incorporated the awful short sleeve jerseys, the cash grab Christmas jerseys, and the awful alternate jerseys (Celtics 3rd uni is dreadful). Heck, I’d rather see a jersey full of corporate sponsorship than those grisly neon Atlanta Hawks jerseys. Now THERE is something to rail about!

  7. Reminds me of a few years back when the prior owners of the Lightning sold out and renamed the Ice Palace – the St Pete Times forum! When the issue came to Council I adamantly voted against the renaming of the adjacent street St pete Times Forum Blvd. No way was this homer going to deface our downtown street win that way!

    If the trib had any money they should have paid to drop the Trop and emblazon the sides of that bizarre looking bldg w TAMPA Tribune!

    Anyway, I expect to see elementary schools renamed for coke, fruit loops and Levi’s very soon! Where does it end!!

  8. Good Lord…Is nothing sacred?

    Leave the unis alone…Plaster the arena, scorers table, backboard support pole pads…whatever…Just please, not the jerseys.

    Jerry Buss was the first to bring in corporate sponsorship with The Great Western Forum way back when, I get the capitalist aspect, but c’mon man…The Purple & Gold has no place for the fucking Jack in the Box logo on it.

  9. Moose…

    It reminds me of when Reebok sponsored the Dream Team and Michael and the other Nike guys covered up their Olympic jerseys showing their logo.

    I would imagine any such arrangement would have to be, no pun intended, uniform. For example, if they’re paying $50 mil for the Warriors, they’d also have to pay $50 for the TWolves.

    Not sure how that will work but I’m sure the decision-makers will make the most profitable decision possible.

  10. Altho, Frank, I did dig those throwback Memphis Grizzlies jerseys.

    That’s about it though.

    I guess I knew this was inevitable. I was just hoping it wouldn’t come to this.

    And the other sports? NFL and MLB? Are they to follow?

    Would we be in more of an uproar then?

  11. Well, at least the good thing about that, PJD, is that schools would finally have the funding to operate properly and pay teachers what they should be paid.

    Guess there’s no money in it.

  12. There is no purity left in sports Chumpy. None.

    We might agree about uniform logos but players and owners ONLY care about one kind of money… MORE.

    No one will ever walk away from MORE money. Whores one and all.

  13. I can’t say I blame ’em, Tree, but it still bothers me.

    I mean, how much is worth is to put a big Miller Lite logo on a uniform?

    And how much is it worth it not to?

  14. The difference Chumpy is that it’s easy to measure the value of adding the logo… you just got rich(er).. on the other hand it is mere speculation as to the uniform value without advertising.

    So what would any greedy whore do but take the money.. and so NBA uniforms will very shortly resemble NASCAR uniforms… not an open square inch.

    Because beer companies charge so much extra per 12 pack to assure that they can spend the massive coin required to never let me watch anything unless it features their logo prominently.

    Ain’t capitalism a fine thing??

  15. So, Tree, let’s say for the sake of argument that the NBA decides to put only one logo on its uniform… for starters.

    Let’s say it’s Apple.

    It’s a minuscule yet still perfectly visible Apple logo for which Apple pays the NBA let’s say $500 million.

    Now, when I go to to buy my favorite player’s jersey, which would clearly not be Dwight Howard, is the jersey I buy going to have that same Apple logo and more importantly, would that logo dissuade me from buying that jersey?

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