Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
Though this change is only part of a three-year pilot program, it's sparking controversy among sports fans nationwide, and rightfully so. The NBA jersey advertisements are small and tasteful now, but their very presence reminds fans of a corporate atmosphere that detracts from the spirit of the game.
The advertisements' supporters cite professional international soccer teams as ad success stories. After all, it's commonplace for these teams to have large advertisement elements to their uniforms. Sponsorship on soccer jerseys started in the 1950s, and no noticeable harm has come of it.
Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, echoed this sentiment saying, "We're always thinking about innovative ways the NBA can remain competitive in a global marketplace, and we are excited to see the results of this three-year trial."
The commissioner presents the NBA as if it were incapable of keeping up with other organizations financially without implementing advertising patches. But the NBA isn't exactly lacking in revenue. On average, an NBA franchise is worth about $1.36 billion, and operating profits are at record highs. It seems like the organization is unnecessarily money-hungry and has little concern for audience feedback.
There are plenty who disagree with me, saying the advertisements aren't a big deal. On one hand, who cares? There are much bigger issues in the world than whether Kevin Durant feels like wearing a jersey endorsing Rakuten. The Golden State Warriors certainly aren't concerned, as they'll rake in about $20 million annually for it.
It is a minimal piece of design. Compared to soccer jerseys, it's barely noticeable. However, by endorsing these corporate messages, the NBA is sacrificing some of the game's integrity. Plus, they're distracting and annoying. These ads are like pop-ups you can't block. They're like YouTube ads you can't skip. If I'm not going to politely sit through a YouTube advertisement before watching Jacksfilms, then I'm definitely not going to politely consume an ad during an NBA game.
Though this change is physically small, fans might no longer see jerseys as an honorable symbol of team pride but as a hybrid billboard created to generate profit. And that matters to people across the country. Otherwise, we wouldn't be so up in arms about 2.5 inch patches.
Sponsors clearly have a great deal of power over teams. We see a similar relationship between Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour, and University of Maryland teams. Our campus is covered in Under Armour logos.
This relationship, however, is very different than in the NBA. One of the biggest arguments against NBA jersey ads is that they diminish team pride and undermine integrity. At this university, pride in Maryland athletics and Under Armour go hand-in-hand. We derive a certain feeling of pride in seeing the Under Armour logo because we know the CEO is a proud alumnus of our school.
If NBA teams had similar relationships with their sponsors, maybe they wouldn't receive as much backlash against their unnecessary marketing schemes.
Sydney Wess is a junior art history and broadcast journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.