The NBA might have a public relations problem on its hands…
This week, the NBA came down quite hard on the Toronto Raptors. The league fined the team $25,000 for tampering allegations.
This latest suspicion stems from slightly suggestive comments made by hip hop and R&B superstar and Raptors’ global ambassador Drake. While performing at his concert, Drake shouted out Kevin Durant who was in attendance and proceeded to openly ponder the notion the reigning MVP possibly playing for the team one day.
Apparently that was enough for the NBA to send a message to Toronto. Since The Decision of LeBron James aggravated team owners four years ago, the league has been very anal about any kind of hint of teams negotiating with players before they become free agents.
So naturally they overreacted to nearly-harmless performing banter from a music artist. But in a more surprising fashion, the league reportedly offered to waive the fine if the Raptors parted ways with Drake.
It is unclear at the moment why the association is trying to nudge the rapper out the door, but whatever the reason is, it’s a bad business move.
Drake became the global ambassador of the Raptors almost a year ago and has assumed position as the face of the franchise. He’s gone out of his way to promote the team in a non-paid position; he’s made it seem cool to be a Raptors fan, and he’s added hype to a franchise that has had a relatively dull 19-year history.
The NBA has focused on gaining interest from residents of their teams’ regions for decades. In the 1940’s, ’50’s and ’60’s the league had territorial draft picks in place — which allowed teams to draft players who played high school or college basketball locally. This way, teams could easily acquire players that their surrounding community was familiar with and perhaps fond of.
Think the Philadelphia Warriors drafting of Overbrook High’s Wilt Chamberlain.
Fast forward to today; the Raptors have done something similar by adding a proud Toronto native to the picture. What better way to build buzz from the third most populous NBA city by having a very famous sponsor who’s profession is synonymous with hometown-repping?
Not to mention that he helps to mellow out the unwillingness that many Americans — players included — have had about living in or visiting Toronto.
And also, not to mention he helps the generating of publicity for an All-Star Weekend that is being held in the Canadian city 18 months from now.
It’s free publicity.
The NBA is going against the renowned marketing merit that they have displayed over the years by trying to expel Drake.
Could it be about his image being a rapper that can be off-putting to some people? That never caused the league to interfere with Jay-Z’s ownership stake with the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets that lasted for about 10 years. Same goes for Nelly’s stake in the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets that has gone on for 10 years and counting. And Drake’s persona is way smoother than either of those two.
The NBA has attempted to rid themselves of a positive figure during the same week that they’ve allowed Shelly Sterling to remain in place.
The sale of the Los Angeles Clippers became official as former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer assumed owner status in exchange for $2 billion. The deal puts an end to the reign of Donald Sterling — who owned the team while maintaining a reputation as a discriminatory and shrewd businessman.
Shelly is his estranged wife and possesses a not-so-estranged discriminatory and shrewd past. Despite that, she has been named “owner emeritus” of the Clippers and will still have the right to sit court side at games along with other perks.
Somehow Shelly’s history of racial controversy has largely slipped through the cracks of mainstream news reports over these last few months. It’s as if the documents of her actions of the past have gone ignored. As a result, the NBA is letting her slide by letting her remain associated with the team and league.
The NBA has worked diligently over the last three-plus months to banish Donald Sterling and wash out the negative stench he’s produced. How can they possibly believe they’ve cleared the stench when they’re still letting his wife remain in the forefront?
Let’s even set aside the bigoted blips in her resume for a moment. It’s still shameful to have anyone in the Sterling family, let alone the wife of Donald, being a representative of one of the league’s trendiest teams at the moment.
I understand Shelly played a big part in prying her husband away from the Clippers and the NBA, testifying against him in court as well as taking control of the Sterling family trust. But allowing her to retain a role with the organization is not a worthy reward considering the baggage she bears. I think her cut from the $2 billion is more than enough of a thank you. Her continued presence slightly tarnishes the victory for the NBA.
A league that is so obsessed with its image is suddenly blinded to what would help or hurt the image.
The NBA is currently expressing a lack of understanding proper priorities. And that’s disappointing, because they historically get these kind of issues right.