Will NBA Lead Charge Into Ads On All Professional Jerseys?

by Rob Neyer @ Baseball Nation

As Richard Sandomir writes in The New York Times, last week a group of National Basketball Association owners met in New York and considered, among other things, six NBA jerseys emblazoned with corporate names or logos.

It probably wasn’t the first time the NBA’s considered such a thing. But this time, it might be serious. Sandomir:

The presentation to the league’s board of governors last Thursday night strongly suggested that the N.B.A. might be the first major sports league in the United States to allow its players to wear advertising. If the N.B.A. agrees, its players will join golfers, soccer players around the world, Nascar and IndyCar drivers, and W.N.B.A. players, some of whom have worn corporate logos or names since 2009.


For years, N.B.A., M.L.B., N.F.L. and N.H.L. teams have changed their uniform styles and designs to increase merchandise sales, keep up with fashion trends or herald a new era, as the Miami Marlins just did. Patches have been added to remember a former player or manager who died (the Mets are wearing one as a memorial to Gary Carter). But advertising has not broken through; after Major League Baseball considered putting logos on players’ sleeves in 1999, Commissioner Bud Selig rejected the idea.

In case you missed that, let me repeat it …

after Major League Baseball considered putting logos on players’ sleeves in 1999, Commissioner Bud Selig rejected the idea.

If true, then let’s all raise a toast to Commissioner Bud Selig. Bless his semi-traditional heart and the blood it keeps pumping. I don’t know about you, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Commissioner Bud’s successor, assuming there actually is a successor someday, won’t be so resistant.

And it should be said that the moratorium on uniform advertisements hasn’t been complete; when Major League Baseball teams have played official games in Japan, they’ve worn corporate logos on their jerseys. Perhaps because so few American fans actually see those games? Perhaps because the Commissioner thinks that anything that doesn’t happen in the U.S. or Canada doesn’t really count?

You got me. But MLB’s record on this matter is not perfect. It’s nearly perfect, and if that’s because of Commissioner Bud Selig, he’s got my heartiest thanks.

Because when I’m watching a baseball game, or any other sporting event, I don’t like being reminded that someone wants my money for something made of plastic or by child labor or for destroying the environment. I know that sports are no more pure than most human endeavors, but I find sports a respite from the uglier endeavors by which we’re all surrounded.

So let’s raise another toast, this time to Commissioner Bud Selig’s health. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll probably keep his job because he obviously doesn’t have much interest in doing anything else and, just as obviously, his employers are happy to keep him around.

It really is just a matter of time. The ads, they are a-coming. But every year without them is a blessing. And we can only hope that baseball continues to resist the urge to be more like basketball. That’s never been a winning strategy, and never will be.


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