Back in April, I wrote a Uni Watch column predicting that the NBA wouldn't permit ads on its uniforms this season. And I was right, sort of: The league has just announced that uniform ads will probably start appearing in the 2013-14 season.
This proposal isn't yet a done deal -- a final vote by the league's Board of Governors will be taken this September -- but it definitely sounds like it has an unobstructed route to the basket.
If the league follows through on this, it will be a genuinely revolutionary moment in North American professional sports. Aside from a handful of season-opening MLB games played in Japan, none of the "Big Four" leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL) has ever sold commercial advertising on game jerseys. And if the NBA owners do it, you can bet the owners in the other leagues will be telling their respective commissioners, "Hey, we want a piece of that pie too!" This could set in motion a series of events that would reshape the look of the modern sports landscape.
I have to admit, I'm surprised. When talk of NBA uniform ads surfaced back in the spring, I was fairly certain they'd begin by putting ads on practice gear and/or warm-ups, not on game jerseys. Apparently they've decided to skip that incremental step.
I'm also very, very disappointed. I still think uniform ads are a terrible idea, for all the reasons I outlined back in that April column. The worst aspect of it is that it will reinforce a cynicism that's already deeply rooted in our sports culture. Most fans who hear this news -- maybe including you -- will roll their eyes and say, "Jeez, another money grab. It sucks, but whaddaya gonna do?" That's precisely the type of jadedness the sports world doesn't need more of.
But again, it's not quite a done deal yet. Maybe fan reaction on Twitter and Facebook will be strong enough between now and September that the league will reconsider. Hope so.