By Ken Reed
The growing practice of resting star players in the NBA is becoming a major public relations crisis for the league. It might also turn into a financial crisis for league owners if television broadcasters and sponsors continue to see healthy stars sitting on the bench instead of playing on the floor.
From the fans’ perspective, here’s the deal: Fans pay big dollars to see the best teams and the best players play. In some cases, visiting teams only come to their cities one time per season. Tickets are often purchased months in advance. Injuries are part of the game and fans understand the risk of buying tickets and then finding out the star player they wanted to see is injured. But watching healthy players sit on the bench in street clothes because they or their coach decided they needed a rest is a different matter altogether. Moreover, the situation is compounded when coaches like Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr decide to rest three or four starters at once.
There’s something that just stinks about a family of four spending a couple hundred bucks on tickets — three months in advance — to see the Golden State Warriors play, and then going to the game, sitting down in their seats with popcorn and drink in hand, and discovering Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are sitting on the bench in street clothes.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver recognizes the problem and has said it will be a major topic of discussion at the league’s Board of Governors meeting in New York on April 6th.
“Decisions of this kind do not merely implicate issues of player health and team performance on the court,” said Silver in a memo to league owners. “They also can affect fans and business partners, impact our reputation, and damage the perception of our game.”
Popovich, the San Antonio Spurs’ coach, acknowledges the issue but says there are bigger considerations than just a single game.
“the league has to understand that the science of what we do is a whole lot more sophisticated than it used to be, and we have definitely added years to people. So, it’s a tradeoff: Do you want to see this guy in this one game or do you want to see them for three more years of his career? And do you want to see him through the playoffs because he didn’t get hurt?”
That said, Popovich empathizes with the average fan. He said he appreciates the frustration of families that “save their money and bring their child and then all of a sudden so and so is not there. That is a tough one.”
And one that needs to be effectively addressed by the league before next season.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
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. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
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.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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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