I never thought I would see the day when professional athletes became billboards upon which corporate organizations could advertise. While NASCAR has been sending drivers out onto the racetrack in jumpsuits and cars decked out with company logos for decades, I still have not won the debate over whether or not race car driving is actually a sport. With the NBA Board of Governors allowing the inclusion of 2.5-by-2.5-inch sponsorship patches on player jerseys beginning with the 2013-14 season, this could potentially be the beginning of the end.
Sure, one little patch on player jerseys is nothing to get too excited about. Soccer stars have the names of their teams’ sponsors emblazoned across their chests. My favorite is the Philadelphia Union players, who go out onto the pitch in “Bimbo” jerseys. But where does it end? If it works out well for the NBA, you can be sure that the NFL, NHL and MLB will likely follow suit. And who knows, there may even come a day when sports stars are encouraged to go out and get tattoos of their corporate sponsors. I can already picture Michael Phelps with a Subway tramp stamp or Derek Jeter with the Ford logo inked on his arm.
I understand the importance of corporate sponsorship plays in increasing revenue for a professional sports team and all. That has been evident with all the naming rights attached to athletic fields, arenas and stadiums. I can understand some why the St. Louis Cardinals call Busch Stadium home, why the Milwaukee Brewers take to the field in Miller Park and why the Colorado Rockies play in Coors Field. Those beers are brewed in the teams’ respective cities, so it makes sense. So does having Target Field in Minneapolis and Heinz Field in Pittsburgh – that’s where the corporate headquarters are located. But Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis? Now, that’s just absurd.
Since this whole fiasco of naming rights began, we now have practically a gazillion complexes with names like MetLife Stadium, Citizens Bank Park, Chase Field, Citi Field, Comerica Park, Minute Maid Park, PETCO Park, Safeco Field, U. S. Cellular Field and Xcel Energy Center. Whatever happened to the good old days of naming stadiums after important figures in the city or team’s history like Wrigley Field, Shea Stadium, Comiskey Park, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome or Lambeau Field? It’s just a travesty what sports is becoming. However, I would not be offended if the new Vikings stadium ended up being named after a brand of laxative or toilet paper. Pepto-Bismol Park sure has a nice ring to it!