It was only five short years ago that baseball fans nearly formed a full-scale mutiny against Major League Baseball for the league’s plan to advertise the movie Spider-Man 2 on the bases at the 2004 All-Star Game. It was a simpler, purer time in sports - except for all those ‘roids, of course. Oh, and the global economy hadn’t taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque into the proverbial crapper it’s in today.
(Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 Chicago Bulls!)
Since those halcyon days of yore, sports leagues have kicked up the selling-out process up several notches as leagues dig deep to generate new sources of revenue. There was only a mild outcry from the more crotchety corners of the punditry when the NFL announced it would allow advertisements on practice jerseys (as long as they weren’t porn-related, that is). At the time, Mark Cuban predicted the NBA would follow suit soon. And whaddya know, old Cubes was right again - starting this season, NBA teams will sell ad space on its practice jerseys, and there’s been barely a peep about it from anyone.
NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged the move to USA TODAY; it’s a move that was hardly unexpected given the actions of other sports leagues and the muted reaction from fan. But the rather surprising part is that Silver openly admitted that ads on practice jerseys is only a stepping stone to the real moneymaker:
Beginning this season the NBA will let teams sell ads on their practice jerseys, says deputy commissioner Adam Silver, who adds the league is continuing to explore the issue of ads on game jerseys.
“We are operating a diverse business all around the world,” Silver says. “(The sponsored game jersey) is a well-established practice in other countries. Ultimately, I think our fans will come to accept it.”
In other words, the entire point of ad space on practice jerseys isn’t to make money - it’s to get you, the American sports fan, so used to the idea of ad-supported jerseys that you won’t say anything when the Golden State Warriors become the Google Search Warriors.
Not that there has been any innocence in pro sports for decades, but this is the final, cynical admission that it’s all about the money. Nothing wrong with that; businesses gotta make money to survive, and if this somehow results in a basketball team called the Nippon Ham Mavericks, we’ll be too busy buying their jersey to complain.