Iranian NBA Player Cannot Accept Endorsements

Unless you’ve spent the last 30 years or so living under a rock, you know that the relationship between the United States and Iran isn’t the friendliest one in the world. Something about them holding Americans hostage, our friendship with Israel, and nuclear weapons has driven a divide between our two countries. Still, we do have something in common with Persians, and that’s that we both love our sports.

This can be seen by the adoration for Memphis Grizzlies rookie Hamed Haddadi. Haddadi has spent most of his rookie season shuffling back and forth between Memphis and Bismarck in the NBDL, but that hasn’t stopped all the Iranians living in the United States from following Haddadi’s every move in the NBA. In fact, if he wanted to, Haddadi could probably get some pretty nice endorsement deals (possibly for gold chains and silk shirts). Well, he could if it wasn’t for that whole trade embargo we have with Iran.


Barred by the trade embargo from seeking commercial endorsements, Mr. Haddadi nonetheless has inspired Iranians abroad. Fans download images of his brief appearances on NBA courts. YouTube contributors, shooting bootleg video inside NBA arenas, chronicled the first point Mr. Haddadi sank in a professional contest (a foul shot, in Phoenix) and his first field goal from the floor (a short jumper, against New York’s Knicks — watch here).

“It was from the middle of the paint,” says Askandar “Alex” Chitzasan, a Portland high-school student, who says he scours Yahoo Sports each day for glimpses of his Iranian idol.

“He played 18 minutes against Denver,” adds Alex’s older brother, David. “And there were two amazing blocks on Carmelo Anthony.”

Because of that same trade embargo, Haddadi actually became the first NBA player to ever need a waiver from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to sign with a professional team here in the NBA.

Other Persian-Americans like Andre Agassi have been allowed to have endorsement deals because even though his father was an immigrant, Andre was born in the United States. It’s too bad for Hamed when you think about it. I mean, “Who’s your Haddadi?” has so many possibilities that we’ll just never get to capitalize on.