The Dallas Mavericks’ Mark Cuban is supposed to be the people’s owner. He’s supposed to be more concerned with their interests than his bottom line. He’s supposed to run the team as if it were in a fantasy league, not the NBA.
He’s supposed to realize that it’s already difficult enough to watch the NBA on TV without seeing a corporate logo at any moment, so there’s no need to make it impossible.
So, what’s an idealist to think with his full-throated endorsement of putting logos on jerseys? “I've been trying to tell (the NBA)," Cuban told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. "If someone wants to give us $10 million, I'll make it happen.”
The NBA, according to Sports Business Journal, will consider the issue at a board of governors meeting next month. Apparently, Cuban is ready to make an opening argument in favor. Perhaps the only positive in him taking the lead is he favors some limits.
For “$25 million, Go Daddy can be on my tush,” he said, but the logo wouldn’t “replace Dallas or Mavericks" on a jersey.
If the NBA were to green light the logo placement, it would be the first major team sport in the U.S. to do so for game action. The NFL has allowed it for practice gear for several years, bringing Atlantic Health to the New York Jets jerseys, but the logo sizes are limited – and scrimmages aren’t broadcast in full.
On a lower plane, Major League Soccer and the WNBA have done what Cuban said won’t happen with the NBA (or at least the Mavericks) and allowed sponsor names to be larger on game jerseys than the team insignias. In Seattle alone, the home teams in the respective leagues appear to be Xbox and Bing not Sounders and Storm.
Across the world, most notably in soccer, logos dominate in-game laundry. And, there’s big money to be made. The famed Barcelona soccer team is in the middle of a five-year, $200 million deal with the Qatar Foundation to sponsor its jerseys.
The Sports Business Journal report makes it seem as if LeBron James and Kevin Durant will become walking billboards in the not-to-distant future.
“The most appropriate question and the answer we’re all waiting for is, ‘What is it worth?’” Golden State Warriors president and COO Rick Welts told SBJ. “I am not suggesting this is an easy issue, but I feel like it is inevitable. We just have to agree on value and what it would look like.”
Time was an ESPN or TNT – in the midst of NBA deals running through 2016 – might have some leverage to block the move, fearing ever-present logos might discourage competitive advertisers. But, sports rights have become so coveted by networks, that heft is probably gone.
And, frankly, networks might not even need to care. Geico isn’t going to stop advertising during NBA games if State Farm is on team jerseys.
Let’s hope, however, networks are able to prevent the NBA from turning what coaches wear into a money maker. The way ad creep is going, one can only imagine a courtside interview resembling the Red Carpet.
“Coach, before I ask you about the great defense your team is playing, what are you wearing tonight?”