Sterling's NBA After-Burn: Convenient Racism?
Here's a nifty way to make a shipload of quick dosh if you own an NBA team.
Play the racism card. On yourself.
It's gonna work for Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson.
His apologetic statement may seem like he's simply getting ahead of the news about e-mails he wrote a couple of years ago. Here it is on video:
Levinson often donned an Atlanta Thrashers jersey. Hockey draws predominantly white crowds. Maybe that's why the Thrashers are now known as the Winnipeg Jets in the Great White North. Then again, maybe not.
Also gotta like the PC version of Levenson when the Sterling mess was front and center:
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today posted the e-mail in question on his Twitter feed. Levenson is commenting to colleagues on market research he commissioned regarding the Hawks' crowds. Here are a couple of excerpts, which also leave the impression that he's a fan of e e cummings:
So look for a tidal wave of indignance at a media outlet near you.
The hard fact is, except for the Falcons and Georgia Tech, the Atlanta market hasn't been all that conducive to sporting crowds. At the peak of their success, the Braves struggled to sell out playoff games. And again, the Thrashers are gone.
The tone of the message seems to be slanted more toward harsh reality than bigotry. It's a telling harsh reality, to be sure, but stats are stats.
The difference between this scenario and Sterling's is that Levenson is by no means wanting black fans to stay away. He simply wants more white fans to come. And whether or not his assumptions are accurate, they're based on financial considerations much more than racism.
No one can accuse the Hawks front office of not being creative in enhancing the overall fan experience. For example, they produced an excellent video that took a droning code of conduct announcement that's ignored in most arenas and gave fans a reason to pay attention:
It's doubtful the NBA would've taken steps to force Levenson out of the franchise. There's just not enough blatant stupidity there. Which gives rise to another possibility.
Cynical? Of course. Out of the question? Not really.
The brilliance of marketing is turning a negative point into a positive one.
If Levenson truly believes a low-spending minority fan base is a serious issue to the franchise's financial viability, the thing to do is to re-position the perspective. So, if he wants out, instead of merely flashing a spreadsheet with hard numbers, he covers it with a statement that these black folks are scaring away the crackers.
Bingo. Make the deal an emotional purchase. Kinda like a 1%er version of buying a Slim Jim while standing in line at the store not long after lunch. And Levenson got rich knowing how to slant stories.
And dude, if you really think white cheerleaders make that much of a difference, then go for the gold. You'll find it in eastern Europe:
There's your $2billion price tag.