WNBA sells its soul


My worst fears are now realized:  10 WNBA teams beginning Tuesday will wear the name of a national cell phone company on the front of their jerseys.  (Two other teams: Los Angeles and Seattle already have sponsors on their jerseys.)

It is part of the deal the W signed — “a landmark multiyear marketing partnership, which also includes the company’s name plastered all over the teams’ arenas, courts and pole pads, the league announced Monday.  

 ”(The company) will be featured through WNBA national and local marketing activities throughout the life of the partnership,” says the official league announcement.   This also includes commercials during national game telecasts, in-game promotions, and prominently mentioned on WNBA.com, NBA.com and WNBA social media channels.

“(It) is a great fit as the WNBA’s marquee partner,” says League President Laurie Richie in the press release.

For full disclosure purposes, I don’t mention corporate names in my columns or blog entities.  I won’t give them free advertisements, which is the primary reason they pay teams dearly for this.    If these companies wish to pay me as they do these franchises, or now the W, then I have no problems mentioned them.  But until them, I will not be affording them such privileges.

To quote a former NFL player, “It’s straight money.”

Additionally, the W’s new partner will also be the “presenting partner” of the playoffs and finals, and beginning next year – the title partner of the all-star game, its fan balloting, the WNBA-specfic part of NBA All-Star Jam Session (this part is on hold until the NBA lockout is done) and an associate partner of the WNBA Draft.

It will also sponsor the league’s Top 15 moments, as part of the W’s 15th season celebration. beginning Friday August 26 during an NBA TV special presentation.

The phone company’s vice president claims that the partnership “is an ideal match for (its) brand.”   I guess so — now fans coming to W games will be inundated with no-stop commercials about buying a phone and using their services.   This is a shrewd business move for them.

Furthermore, I have no problem with NASCAR tattooing their cars with sponsor ads — that’s part of the sport’s rich history. 

But basketball isn’t car racing.

Now as a result,  we will no longer see the teams’ nickname on the front of WNBA jerseys.  So it’s now the Atlanta Dream, Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Indiana Fever, New York Liberty, Tulsa Shock and Washington Mystics presented by a cell phone company. 

A WNBA spokeswoman told me that Los Angeles and Seattle will add the company along with the existing coporate-sponsoring logo already on their jersey fronts.   San Antonio and Phoenix also are not involved because they already have phone company name sponsors, she adds.

Therefore, the only way we will be able to tell which team is which is by their team colors since both clubs has the same name on the front:

A company that claims your monthly phone bills gets lower if you pay on time six straight times.  

I earlier predicted that when Seattle became the first W team to replace its team nickname or city name with  a corporate name on the front of their team, it wouldn’t be long before all basketball players will be looking like human racing cars with sponsor logos all over them.

Sadly, now that the WNBA becomes the first league to do this,  I believe will soon convince the other major leagues to do the same.

Teams already sell its soul — er, naming rights for their buildings to corporations.  So why not their players as well.

If this is Richie’s first big move since becoming league president this past spring, I am extremely disappointed.