The National Basketball Association made a conscious corporate choice to highlight their wokeness by backing Black Lives Matter 100 percent and turning the league into just another cog in the social justice machine.
According to a new survey by Reality Check Insights, the league is now seen as more of a political organization than a competitive sport.
“People are not even thinking about the NBA as a sport anymore,’’ said Ben Leff, CEO of Reality Check Insights. “They’re literally evaluating it as an overt political thing.’’
The NBA has a problem. It made a big mistake, not in supporting social justice messaging but rather in how it presented itself. That was, in part, why the NBA Finals had record-low television ratings despite holding the golden ticket of James and the Los Angeles Lakers winning a championship.
Any business entity that depends on the general public for its profits has to understand the temper of the times in which they’re doing business. And today, the times demand that there be a certain level of empathy and wokeness, some sort of acknowledgment of racism and police brutality in urban communities.
But the NBA’s mistake was not in becoming woke, it was in adopting Black Lives Matter’s political agenda and rubbing people’s faces in it.
But Ganis, who is a regular adviser to NFL team owners, points out the difference in how the NFL handled the issue.
“Their slogan, which they adopted with the players, was End Racism,” Ganis said. “Not Black Lives Matter. It was End Racism. And the NFL has committed a quarter of a billion dollars (over 10 years) to support the social initiatives that the players say are important.
Viewership for all sports is down, which doesn’t bode well for the future of professional sports. It turns out, people didn’t miss them as much as the leagues thought they would. Americans found other things to do during the lockdowns and now, the NBA is in the fight of its life to win back those fans and become hugely profitable again.
It’s going to take a lot of work.
The results showed that 67.1 percent of Democrats think favorably or very favorably about the NBA, while 75.9 percent of Republicans think unfavorably or very unfavorably.
The survey also showed that just 12.8 percent of Republicans described themselves as thinking favorably or better about the NBA, and a similar 12.5 percent said they think favorably of Black Lives Matter.
So instead of alienating the black minority, they piss off the white majority? No wonder they’re in trouble with that kind of magical thinking.
When Major League Baseball players went on strike in 1994, baseball was gone for eight months. When they came back to the field, attendance was down 20 percent and stayed there for more than a decade. It wasn’t until 2006 that the league attendance recovered to pre-1994 levels.
But if the NBA doesn’t change the emphasis of their social justice strategy, they may never get a lot of those fans back. People watch sports to escape from this mess of a world we live in and while an acknowledgment that many fans find the issue of racism important can’t be avoided, there are ways to frame that acknowledgment that doesn’t insult and demean other fans.
So the question isn’t does the NBA have to change. The question will be, will the players let them?