In some ways, I like to think, America has done better than Europe or the rest of the world. We have some of the strictest automotive safety guidelines, we have channels dedicated just for making and eating food, and our "Big Four" of professional sports teams (football, basketball, hockey, and baseball) have been advertisement-free on the uniforms.
Well, not for long if the NBA has it's way.
Paul Lukas, the official sports uniform authority from Uni Watch, reported this back in July, noting that no official vote was taken, but it will be held sometime this month. If this were to take effect, the ads would be 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches on the upper left part of the front of the jersey. Of course, these advertisements would be "optional", as in every team isn't forced to do it, but once teams see how lucreative jersey ads will be, it won't be "optional" for very long.
An Odd 360°
As mentioned earlier, the NBA is the first professional team part of the "Big Four" to seriously consider uniform ads in America. As many sports fans could point out, American soccer leagues have uniform ads too, but soccer is more popular around every other part of the world, except here.
One thing that is on every sports uniform is what is called the makers mark. Usually it's on the sleeves or on the chest of the jersey, because the Nike's and the adidas's of the world want to show off that they made the technology in that jersey fabric or something like that. However, there is one prominent league that doesn't allow those makers marks to appear on their uniforms.
That's right kids--it's the NBA!
So that is what makes this advertisement move a little bit more confusing--aside from the money the NBA doesn't need, they don't even let adidas, who signed an 11-year contract if I'm not mistake, put their coporate logo on the uniform, why should Allstate?
"For the Love of Money Is the Root of All Evil"
This announcement did come out of the post-lockout NBA, where we had a shortened NBA season (nobody noticed), and the 76ers actually had some pretty cheap ticket prices during the season. And some are inclined to think "well, maybe these uniform ads will make the NBA ticket prices affordable so more fans could show up and support their team!"
Cue the buzzer, 'cuz that's wrong!
The better reason is "to help the owners make money and to fund our superstars, we need more revenue instead of working out our reported budget problems." That's fine; the NBA could have huge money problems right now, and we don't know it, but should the first thing you do is say "sell ad space!"? No. If your local school district was losing some money, but not in danger of really losing anything, would a viable option for recooping that loss be selling ad space on your local school buses? If you said "yes", the NBA is hiring yes-people right at this time!
Civic Institution vs. Corporate Ideals
Paul Lukas's argument against uniform ads is a very good one:
"...many of us here believe that teams are civic entities, with civic responsibilities, as well as business entities. They rally the local citizenry, they wear the names of our cities on their chests, they receive tax abatements, they play (mostly) in publicly financed facilities, etc.
Sports teams often claim to be special on various intangible levels. And they’re right! That’s why we care about them so much. And that brings certain responsibilities. And that’s why many of us here are morally outraged."
Teams are an odd fusion of the people and the corporations, with the teams being owned in a corporate manner, whilst it is 100% dependant on the fans of the team and the citizens of the city (or state) the team resides.
Think about it this way; go back to 1995 when the Cleveland Browns moved. What kind of bruhaha did that stir up? Would the Browns completly move to Baltimore, Bernie Kosar and all? Could a new team tap the magic for the fans the same way the Browns did? And, hell, Baltimore only took the team because the Colts left in the same fashion almost 20 years prior!
Look at Art Modell's death: the Browns actually called off a memorial gesture during the first weeks game because fans still hated him for moving the team away. Yeah. Almost 20 years later, and Cleveland still hated Art Modell taking their team away.
The bond between a city and a team in almost indescribable. The imagery, the colors, the uniforms--those are all part of the cities sports idenity. It would be like the Eagles going hot pink and fushia and still being called the Eagles; it would be a sports-related nightmare for everyone. And there are many out there, myself included, think that uniform ads for American sports teams spell nothing but trouble.
The Spark That Starts the Fire
A good quote by Edmund Burke goes "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Sure, this isn't good vs. evil in the title match for the fate of the world, it's just uniform ads. Big whoop. I don't even like the NBA and I'm fighting uniform ads. Why?
Because if the NBA gets their way, then the NFL, NHL, and MLB would seriously consider uniform ads--and we wouldn't even get commercial free football like Europe does! We would all have to tolerate an Eagles jersey with a Coca-Cola patch, a Sixers jersey with an Allstate banner, and the Phillies with three things because baseball is weird.
Most fans don't care; they'll just accept it as our consumer driven society, where the highest bidder gets the best of everything. Honestly, I don't watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, I don't want to see school buses with ads on them, I buy the paid version of free apps on my iPod, and I nuke my sound when a YouTube video starts giving me a 15-second advertisement. Why? I don't want to be sold anything, I just want to watch a damn football game.
And as a uniform geek, and a Philadelphia sports fan, I would just like to say to the NBA; No Uniform Ads!
If you would like to fight the NBA's proposition for uniform ads, if you have a twitter, you can tweet to the NBA (@nba) with the hashtag #nouniads. If you want a more direct, albiet automated way of contacting the NBA, email them by clicking here. If that just isn't direct enough for you, you can call the NBA (212-407-8000) and ask for David Stern or Adam Silver's office. Every person fighting counts!