At the NBA Board of Governors meeting yesterday, it was revealed that the NBA is likely going to put small sponsorship patches on their jerseys starting in 2013. This was met with wide ranging reactions from people who have differing opinions on the issue. Everything from disregard of the patches to fear of sponsorships taking over for civic names was spewed out. Normally, this blog would have no NBA column, but this is not just an NBA issue. Every major league in the US and Canada will deal with this issue very soon, and it's surely a contentious one.
Since I am also a dedicated fan of a European soccer club, sponsorships on jerseys are no big surprise, and they don't bother me a bit. They are a major source of income for the clubs, and when the games actually go on, you barely notice the sponsor on the jersey. This has been going on in every sport on the club level around the world for 30 or so years, and the US leagues have always resisted. It does seem fitting that the money grabbing NBA would go for this first, but the NHL, MLB, and NFL will follow suit in due time. It's inevitable.
There are many issues that people have brought up about the patches, and all of them are valid, but rather irrelevant in the overall discussion. Issue #1: I won't buy the jerseys if they have a patch on them. Good point, but the leagues take jersey revenue overall, and that won't hit the pockets of the owners or players that hard at all. And, if you truly want a jersey, you'll buy it anyway, despite the patch and your objections to it. Issue #2: The sponsor will become more important than the name on the front of the jersey. Well, sports teams are already businesses, and it's no surprise that owners aren't willing to take huge losses on their teams just for their one moment in the sun. See past CBA negotiations for an example of this. Also, almost everything else surrounding a team is sponsored, so why not just sponsor the last area where there are none, since this is a pursuit for profit? Issue #3: We'll soon see team names like the Nike Knicks, or Adidas Lakers , since this will snowball. This hasn't happened anywhere else in the world with the sponsors being a common thing, and this certainly won't happen in the US due to the "civic treasure" status.
There is one issue I have with these sponsorships that no has brought up yet. It seems that each NBA team will have a unique sponsor, and therefore they will make vastly differing amounts of money from it. While the Lakers could make $5 million from a Staples patch, the Bobcats may only make around $500,000 from a similar patch. The gulf between the big market and small market teams will widen with this, unless the NBA has a league-wide sponsor that puts its patch on every team's jersey and each team gets the same amount of money. Since that won't happen, this is something to watch very closely. The NBA already has the smallest amount of parity of the 4 major sports league in North America, and this may only shrink it still. That is prevalent around the world with these types of deals, and that isn't something the American sports model needs right now.
In the end, you're still rooting for the team, not the sponsor. If it makes your team money so that they can get better players, why are you complaining? Even a slight buffing of the coffers can help. And besides...
We live in the United States of America. It's called Capitalism. If you don't like it, it's 90 miles from Key West to Cuba.