By Ken Reed
When it comes to pro sports in the United States you can count on one thing: profit-at-all-costs (PAAC) thinking will drive decision-making.
The NBA recently announced that its team jerseys, including the iconic uniforms of the Celtics and Lakers, will now have ads on them. Glory be, NBA basketball courts will now start resembling NASCAR race tracks!
It’s now completely clear — as if it wasn’t before — that everything in the NBA is for sale. Nothing is sacred. I imagine the strategy of placing corporate ads on NBA jerseys can now be found in the NBA Policy Handbook under the section entitled, “Pure Unadulterated Greed.”
In 2012, as part of a campaign to stop ads on NBA uniforms, League of Fans wrote an open letter regarding the “ads on jerseys” idea to then commissioner David Stern. Here is an excerpt that remains relevant today:
“Fans already have to put up with non-stop advertising the second they enter an NBA arena. It’s sensory overload. No line of sight is free from commercial messaging. Every timeout is viewed by team franchises as simply a chance to bombard fans with more corporate ads … Speaking of fans, do you ever consider asking fans what they think of ideas like these? You give lip service to being ‘fan-friendly’ and then you proceed to make decisions that are clearly anti-fan, all in the name of a greedy grab for more dollars.”
For now, the NBA says ads on uniforms will be limited to a small patch on the front of jerseys. But where does it stop?
“How much money is enough?,” asks Marina Mangiaracina in an SB Nation opinion piece.
“There’s a thin ring of video board surrounding the inside of the arena, with the sole purpose of throwing moving advertisements at you. Ads for Homeland or Dub Richardson are constantly flying at you on the big screen. The entire upper section of the bowl is named after Loves. Heck, sometimes regular commercials will play before and after the game on the big screen. And it’s not like we’re getting this product for free. Concession prices are outrageous by restaurant standards, and the cheapest seat in the house is going to cost you $15. If all of this wasn’t enough, they’ve actually engineered the game to unnaturally stop to allow for TV commercials and in-arena events. And when you get right down to it, in-arena events are just glorified commercials.”
What can fans do? Well, fans can push back on Twitter (#NoUniAds), but perhaps the only thing that can ultimately save us is the community ownership model for pro sports franchises. Do you think the Green Bay Packers, a regional treasure owned by the team’s fans through a community stock ownership plan, would agree to debase the famous Packers jersey by putting Taco Bell ads on the jerseys? I think not.
Unfortunately, the NFL owners, seeing how community ownership could hurt their greedy ways, have banned the community ownership model in the league’s bylaws. They don’t want any more Green Bay Packers-style franchises in the league.
Overturning that policy will likely take Congressional action. But that’s a topic for another day.
Today is for mourning the loss of the last commercial-free piece of professional sports in the United States: team uniforms.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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