Yessum Massah

“Has the sport become too edgy, too young and culturally black, for the predominantly corporate and well-heeled white audiences that have helped make Stern’s league a major Madison Avenue player over the last two decades?” -Harvey Araton in The New York Times
Indiana Pacer, Ron Artest going after “the fan” who threw a drink on him in Detroit last Friday.
Following the most infamous brawl in NBA history, league commissioner David Stern, levied the stiffest punishment in league history–$11 million in lost income for nine players and the entire season off for Artest. In my estimation this is not meant to make fans feel safe at courtside. It’s meant to keep corporate America interested in a game dominated by urban, often disenfranchised African-American youth.
The Wall Street Journal puts it this way: “The National Basketball Association swiftly punished players who brawled with fans. Now it is trying to prevent bad blood from spreading to its business partners.” The nation’s premier business paper goes on to list the top ten advertisers on NBA broadcasts for 2004. They are: GM, Miller, Nissan, Verizon, Coors, GE, Anheuser-Busch, Toyota, DaimlerChrysler and McDonald’s.
I wonder whose job it will be to save the NBA from well-deserved allegations of racism. If you question whether Stern’s decision was racist take a look at hockey. It’s perfectly fine for white guys from Canada to beat the crap out of each other every night. But when a black basketball player leaves the court and charges an idiot who had it coming in the sacrosanct area of $100 seats, that somehow crosses the line.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather associate my product with a sport that suffers from periodic outbursts of violence than a sport that brings to mind the systemic violence of slavery.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.