News Item, from ESPN:
The NBA announced… that the board of governors has approved a three-year pilot program to allow teams to sell a corporate logo on their jerseys.
Teams can now start pitching companies on buying a 2.5-inch-by-2.5-inch space as the NBA becomes the first of the four major U.S. sports leagues to put ads on regular game-day jerseys. In an era when virtually every facet of the sports experience is advertised or sponsored, the uniform had been the last ad-free haven.
The first season of the program will be in 2017-18…
“It’s my hope, independent of whatever additional revenues are generated through this patch program, that the greatest impact will be in this amplifying effect of companies choosing to associate directly with a team jersey, then going out and promoting that relationship to the largest market,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.
Silver said the league had calculated that the program will be worth about $100 million a year.
It’s not bad enough that a city’s sports teams have to play in arenas and stadiums named after pet food retailers, banks, car insurance companies and fraudulent corporations rather than local landmarks and community heroes. Now our kids’ heroes will be branded with commerce too…not literally, of course. Not yet.
The NBA has always been the crassest of the major league sports, so the identity of the first league to break one of the last barriers of money-grubbing indignity was preordained. Most of the NBA’s fans, who already don’t mind that the league corrupts college sports and glorifies men who collect illegitimate children the way normal people collect matchbooks, don’t care, so this was not a hard call for the NBA, I would guess.
It’s gross, but is anything wrong with it? After all, NBA players already accept money to put their names on products. It isn’t as if they have an aura of purity about them, and their obvious venality pales in the shadow of game-winning three-pointers and spectacular dunks. What ethical principle is being violated by the NBA turning its players into walking, jumping, shooting billboards?
If there is one, it’s responsibility. The NBA knows once one of the major sports breaks this taboo, the others will almost surely follow. Hockey is desperate for cash: I’d bet that it will be the next to fall. Then the NFL, which is virtually ethics free anyway, will cash in. Last will be Major League Baseball. At that point, corporations and commercialism will have merged completely with the our children’s and our culture’s heroes, making them indistinguishable.
I know, we are almost there anyway, with or without the uniform ads. I know, it is just a minor slide on the slippery slope down to complete cultural crassness. Nevertheless, it makes society and everyone in it a little more crummy, and ethics is about finding ways to accomplish the opposite.
As a theatrical artistic director and director, I am persuaded of the wisdom of what I call “The Thousand Points Principle.” Every production ideally has a thousand points before you start making trade-offs and mistakes. No show get in front of an audience with all one thousand intact. The script has flaws—there go a hundred or so. Your lead is good, but not perfect: that’s another 50 gone. One of the props is anachronistic: there’s a point or two lost. The theater is too cold; the program has typos. More points down the drain.
Individual performances lose points too. A botched line, a missed entrance, a late light cue; these all cost points. When the total points of the show have dwindled from a thousand to dip below, say, 850, it’s not a great show any more, it’s just very good. Another hundred points lost, and the show’s just good; more lost, and it’s just okay. If you are not vigilant, all the little goofs and miscalculations and flaws, some just costing a point or two, can add up to a failure.
I use this concept to explain why no feature of a theatrical production is too small to care about, and the principle applies to cultures and societies too. Yes, the fact that celebrities and politicians are starting to say “fuck” or worse in public and on live TV is a relatively minor wound to civility. True, the fact that mere endorsement via grafitti of a candidate for a major party’s presidential nomination is sufficient to cause colleges to abandon the principle of free speech shows that there are some termites in our societal foundation, but colleges are almost another planet anyway. And yes, the fact that so many people go through life now staring at, talking on or taking selfies with their cell phones while ignoring the human beings serving them, walking next to them and even eating at the same table as them seems like a harbinger of a lonely, isolated, narcissistic future, but it’s not the end of the world. It just may be, however, that those few points surrendered for an extra $100 million in the NBA’s coffers are the ones that push past that invisible line that separates a bearable society from one that is too devoid of ideals, aspiration and values to fight for any more.
I am saying that it is irresponsible to give up even a few points without a better reason than money.
If enough ick is imposed on a society by recklessness and greed, the cumulative results make any unnecessary ick unethical.