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Hatred In The Stands: Fans vs. Players Is A Disastrous Game

The NBA and other sports leagues have allowed the return of live events to spill into ugly episodes, with dire consequences ahead in a nation already divided by racism

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Nathaniel S. Butler

Did it occur to America’s sports leagues, in their furious rush to recoup lost revenues, that some fans no longer are human beings? They are feral animals, cooped up for much too long in pandemic prisons. They are lunatics, treating reopened live events like primal-scream therapy sessions.

Knicks Fans — And LeBron James — Blown Away By Win Against Hawks
Courtesy: Getty Images

And they are racists, which NBA commissioner Adam Silver should have considered when he whipped open the doors of his postseason arenas and didn’t ramp up security.

The result is a new wave of angst in our divided land, which we need like a mass enema. A Knicks fan spat on Atlanta’s Trae Young at Madison Square Garden. A 76ers fan threw popcorn on Washington’s Russell Westbrook, long a target of such abuse, at Wells Fargo Arena. Kyrie Irving, feeling a need to be pre-emptive, fears Celtics fans will shout racial taunts at him Friday night in his playoff return to TD Garden. These are some of basketball’s most storied buildings, and they’ve been reduced to dens of detritus and disgust as sports recklessly welcomes back paying customers to cobwebbed seating sections.

“To be completely honest, this shit is getting out of hand, especially for me,” Westbrook said. “The amount of disrespect, the amount of fans just doing whatever the f— they want to do — it’s just out of pocket. There are certain things that cross the line. Any other setting … a guy were to come up on the street and pour popcorn on my head, you know what happens. In these arenas, you got to start protecting the players.”

“Damn… Crazy. Keep ya mask on my boy #ThatsJustChildish,” tweeted Young, who was goobered as he inbounded the ball, near rapper 50 Cent and actress Julianne Moore, while fans heckled him with comments about his hair and “F— Trae Young” chants.

Wisely, Irving is alerting Boston authorities what could happen in a city known for ugly incidents victimizing Black athletes. “Hopefully,” he said, “we can just keep it strictly basketball, there’s no belligerence or racism going on — subtle racism — people yelling s–t from the crowd.”

When Brooklyn teammate Kevin Durant interjected, “The whole world knows it,” Irving seconded the motion. “It is what it is,” he said.

Gee, isn’t it just wonderful how the re-emergence of fans in arenas and ballparks has united the country? When they aren’t aiming their hatred at athletes, they’re pummeling each other. In Houston, Dodgers fans who’ve waited two years to lash out at the scandalized Astros chanted “Cheaters!” at Minute Maid Park, which led to a Dodgers fan knocking out an Astros fan with two punches. The night before, some of Chicago’s classier ladies brawled in the left-field bleachers at whatever they’re calling Comiskey Park these days. The atmosphere inside major-league ballparks is creepy, with fans waiting for a rare hit or burst of action while pitchers — is Rob Manfred still alive? — rub illegal substances all over their uniforms, from caps to crotches to calves.

It’s in the NBA, though, where the escalation has reached a flashpoint. Players who spent last year in valiant Black Lives Matter protests, inside the Disney World Bubble, now are subjected to dangerous actions in arenas. This is a league, remember, where 75 percent of the players are Black, and most of the spectators are White. It took the best efforts of arena security guards and Wizards staffers to restrain Westbrook, who had been limping into the tunnel with an ankle injury, from confronting Orville Redenbacher in the stands. The last episode the NBA needs is another “Malice at the Palace” fracas, where players and fans duked it out in an all-time debacle. But sports is headed toward another violent confrontation if the commissioners are too busy counting their newfound revenues.

Not until the damage was done did the league respond, with the 76ers banning the season-ticket-holding miscreant from all arena events and the Knicks banning a non-season-ticket-holder from all home games. The requisite apologies were made to Westbrook and Young in official team statements, but, realistically, does anyone think these episodes were an aberration? Too many Americans view the gradual resumption of normalcy as a license to further a racial divide, which can be perpetrated from a short distance in an arena or ballpark. Donald Trump may be gone from office, embalmed in Bedminster, but the political climate remains poisonous. For instance, what would possess New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to fan the flames, warning Young to “stop hunting for fouls” at a news conference and on his Twitter feed? Wrote the beleaguered doofus, who is desperately hunting for votes: “MSG is hallowed ground. Don’t desecrate the Garden with cheap foul-hunting. Not in New York City.” When he should be setting a responsible example, all de Blasio did was embolden the idiots.

The league was too late with a response, saying Thursday, “The return of more NBA fans to our arenas has brought great excitement and energy to the start of the playoffs, but it is critical that we all show respect for players, officials and our fellow fans.” The playoffs aren’t 10 days old, and, already, there have been three fan incidents. In Utah, where Westbrook heard racial taunts two years ago from a fan who was banned, the Jazz didn’t provide specifics but announced Thursday that they’d banned three fans indefinitely after a verbal altercation in Vivint Smart Home Arena. Later, it was reported Jazz fans made racist comments to the family of Memphis star Ja Morant. “The Utah Jazz have zero tolerance for offensive or disruptive behavior,” the team said. Obviously, the lessons from 2018 weren’t heeded.

Rather than focus on his current obsession — deriving income from legal gambling — Silver must direct teams to increase police presence. If not, the consequences could be crippling for a league with lukewarm TV ratings and a summer playoff schedule that won’t grip a vacationing America. Most of all, protect your superstar assets, Adam Silver. Prosecution and jail time are the sensible solutions.

“These arenas, they’ve got to start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does,” Westbrook said. “I’ve been in a lot of incidents where fans, they say whatever, and the consequences for me are a lot more detrimental to those people in the stands because they feel like they’re untouchable.”

Courtesy: NBC Sports Philadelphia

Said Atlanta coach Nate McMillan: “We’re just living in a society where people don’t have respect anymore.”

We’re living in a society where people want to hate. It’s up to sports, in its latest and most reckless money grab, to address the hostility with more than prepared statements. And to think a football season, with full houses in the NFL and on SEC campuses, isn’t far away. Have mercy.

BSM Writers

Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC

“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”

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NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade.  A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well.  However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).

NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season.  NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.

NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.  

Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.

Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.

If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.

“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”

Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm. 

“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”

While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock. 

Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week. 

My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic.  When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV.  Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams.  After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England.  They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.

I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.

I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters. 

By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.

Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.

Global Is Cool': The Growing Appeal of Premier League Soccer in America
Courtesy: Morning Consult

This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.

Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.”  NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 45

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Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.

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BSM Writers

6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio

“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”

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For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.

Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?

A Pot of Gold Articles - Analyzing Metals
Courtesy: iStockphoto

Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?

Well, let’s go Digging for Gold. 

The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.

Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.

If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way?  I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:

  • Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
  • Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
  • Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
  • Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
  • FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $ 
  • Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months

The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details. 

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