Memphis Apparel Vendor Bails On Stadium Store

One of the great mysteries of the NBA - right up there with how David Stern gamed the 1985 draft and what species Ervin Johnson is - is how the Memphis Grizzlies haven’t gone bearnipples up yet. Their performance is low, attendance is worse, and we can’t even imagine the horrors on their balance sheet.

Empty Grizzlies Crowd
(Oh Memphis, that ain’t good.)

We’re obviously not alone in wondering what the Grizzlies’ future holds. In addition to, oh, every NBA fan on the f—ing planet, some rather important people are giving up hope on the team. According to the MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, that includes Event Merchandising, Inc.; the company that runs the Grizzlies’ team store at the arena itself.

It gets worse.

EMI’s former Charlotte-based sports development representative said the decision is the first sign that EMI is getting out of sports retail to focus exclusively on concert merchandise.

Jeff Simpson, whom EMI hired seven years ago to expand its sports business, saw his position eliminated in late April. The void leaves EMI without an overseer for its sports accounts, which include the Milwaukee Bucks, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Milwaukee Mile, a NASCAR facility.

We’re sure, of course, that they’ll figure out a way to maintain those teams’ operations without his specific position, right? Or is there some subtle sign that things are going in a different dir–

“We are no longer doing sports, and your services are no longer required; those were [EMI vice president and COO] Larry [Travis]’s exact words,” Simpson said.

…oh. Okay, the exact opposite of subtle, then.

For the Griz, it’s good that this is apparently a mere by-product of a larger corporate strategy and not merely a “screw your team we’re out of here” decision; the fact that EMI on the whole is based out of Memphis would normally lend itself to a little better commercial goodwill than this, especially between two large companies.

We’re not sure the Timberwolves and Bucks are so heartwarmed, though; they get to spend the next few months wondering if they’re next.