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Ewww: NBA Refs to Start Wearing Jersey Advertisements

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I woke up this morning to some disappointing news: The NBA announced overnight that it has sold advertising space on its referees’ jerseys to a Middle East-based airline. The ad patches will debut two Sundays from now at the NBA All-Star Game and will continue to be worn when the regular season resumes four days after that.

Refs in the G League (a league whose very name is an advertisement for a sports drink) will begin wearing the same ads at the start of the 2024-25 season, and WNBA refs will start wearing them in 2025.

The NBA’s use of the All-Star Game to showcase the debut of the refs’ uni ads follows the model recently set by MLB, whose umpires began wearing advertisements for a cryptocurrency exchange in the 2021 MLB All-Star Game and then kept wearing them in the regular season. That move blew up in MLB’s face when the crypto exchange collapsed and its founder was convicted of seven felonies, leading MLB to scrap the ump ads for 2023. It’s not yet clear if a new ump advertiser will be found for 2024.

In addition to whoring out the refs’ jerseys to the airline, the NBA has also sold the naming rights to its in-season tournament. The tournament and its prize, previously known as the NBA Cup, will now be named after the airline. It’s not yet clear whether the Lakers, who won this season’s inaugural tournament and raised a banner to celebrate their victory, will redesign the banner to retroactively add the airline’s name.

Speaking of the airline: A few years back they had a controversy involving, of all things, their uniforms! As explained here:

For many years, the carrier used country flag pins as part of the cabin crew uniform so that flight attendants could show off where in the world they came from.

Emirates cabin crew represent 140 nationalities, but several years ago, Chinese officials discovered that cabin crew from Taiwan were wearing the flag of the Republic of China, known as the “white sun in a blue sky, and a wholly red earth.”

The flag is controversial because it is used to symbolize Taiwan’s independent governance. The People’s Republic of China has, however, long laid claim to Taiwan, and Beijing frequently takes issue with organizations and governments that support Taiwan’s claim to independence or suggest that the island is separate from the rest of China.

Chinese officials effectively threatened Emirates with sanctions because cabin crew of Taiwanese descent were wearing the “white sun in a blue sky, and a wholly red earth” flag on their lapels.

As a result, Emirates initially asked its cabin crew from Taiwan to wear the flag of the People’s Republic of China, but when crew members objected, the airline then decided just to ditch the flag pins altogether.


Super Bowl Preview Reminder

In case you missed it on Wednesday, my Substack article this week is my annual (and final!) Uni Watch Super Bowl Preview. As usual, it features a slew of deep-cut uni-related storylines and subplots on this year’s big game, plus the annual slate of even deeper-cut Super Bowl uni data from Supe savant Jay Braiman. Clocking in at nearly 3,000 words, it has all the info you need to impress (or just annoy) your friends while watching the game on Sunday.

You can read the first part of the article here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paid subscriber to my Substack (which will also get you full access to my Substack archives). My thanks, as always, for your consideration and support!



Raffle-O-Rama, Day 4

Today is the fourth consecutive day that Bob Andrews has generously sponsored a raffle. Today’s prize is a Uni Watch 25th-anniversary patch.

This will be a one-day raffle. No entry restrictions. To enter, send an email with your mailing address to the raffle in-box by 9pm Eastern tonight. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.

As for yesterday’s raffle, our winner is M. Shellenberger, who’s won himself a Uni Watch membership card. Congrats to him, and my continued thanks to Bob Andrews for making all of this fun possible.

We’ll have yet another raffle tomorrow, sponsored by a different reader, so come back tomorrow for that.




Mascot Watch

Those eyes!


Can of the Day

Okay, so this is technically a jar, not a can, but the lid is very can-like. Acrobatic water-skiing while drinking fruit juice!

Comments (23)

    It’s almost like I heard of a league that that went with the Emirates strategy when confronted with a uniform controversy, but for the life of me, I can’t pucking remember which one…

    Not sure what’s wrong with me but I just don’t give a rip if a a ref or an ump has an ad patch.

    Nothing wrong with you at all. We all respond differently to things and have our own thresholds of what does or doesn’t concern us.

    Do Biscuit and Waffles attempt to sit on your lap equally, or is Biscuit more inclined so to do?

    Biscuit is definitely more of a lap cat than Waffles. She’s also more inclined to purr without prompting, whereas Waffles tends to purr only if I rub his belly (but hey, he lets me rub his belly!).

    I actually came here to make a joke that the sponsor would be Emirates because the NBA Cup is supposed to be a rip off of the FA Cup and Emirates sponsors the FA Cup. Jokes on me I guess. Adam Silver really now 110% in on copying soccer.

    Sports leagues continue to fight for space at the Saudi trough. Gotta slurp up that oil money. Gross. Funny how I like sports less and less as the years go by.

    I’m right there with you. It’s especially disheartening from women’s leagues like the WTA and WNBA.

    Don’t disagree with the overall point of your comment, but Emirates is Dubai, not Saudi Arabia

    Love the Cypress Gardens can/lid. I remember being wildly enthralled by the water-skiing shows there when I was about 9 or 10.

    I can only imagine the pressure of trying to get your work done and having those two furballs in close proximity. Mine seem to sense when I am trying to do something and they are all over me. I’m loving the mascot updates!

    Just learned that SB 1 will be re-aired in its (al)most complete broadcast.

    Should be a possible trove of uni stuf, ads, and clothesline tackles!


    From the article:
    “There’s only two single-bar helmets visible, Bart Starr’s and (Max)McGee’s, …”
    There were of course a few other single-bar-wearers on both sides who played in the game:
    Heck, there’s even a photo of Willie Mitchell and Carroll Dale used in the article.
    I wonder how much of the 3+ hour footage is missing or unclear.

    Paul, I hadn’t heard about the Emirates deal until this morning, so I read a few national news articles about it. Every single one referred in some way to the new Emirates “sponsorship” deal. Do writers not know the difference between a sponsor and advertiser? Do they not care? Would their editors balk if they changed the word sponsor to advertiser?

    The sports industry assiduously avoids referring to these things as advertising, and writers often parrot the jargon of the industries they cover, even if that jargon is obfuscatory. I agree that it shows a disappointing lack of critical thinking.

    From the NBA’s perspective, I suppose Emirates is a lot less likely to embezzle millions of dollars, go bankrupt and have it’s CEO end up in prison

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