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Some Thoughts About Advertising

Whenever I critique some form of advertising in the sports world, someone inevitably says, “You’re such a hypocrite! You say you’re against advertising, but you have ads all over your website!”

But here’s the thing: I have never — literally not one single time — said that I’m opposed to advertising. What I have said many times, and what I will continue to say, is that I’m opposed to advertising where it doesn’t belong.

One place it doesn’t belong is on uniforms (because a uniform already stands for a brand — the team’s brand). Another place is on the names of stadiums and arenas (because it transforms civic equity into a billboard). I have opposed those forms of advertising and will continue to do so. Why? For starters, because the spread of advertising and corporate culture into public space is a problem in our society. And also because teams and leagues already make money from overpriced tickets, overpriced parking, overpriced food and drink, the sale of broadcast rights, merchandising, and more. They don’t need advertising on their uniforms or stadium names — that’s just greed.

This website, by contrast, gives away its content — the content you are reading right now — for free! The primary way the site generates revenue is through advertising. And while internet websites are a fairly new phenomenon, the basic concept of media enterprises being underwritten by advertising is a funding model that dates back literally for centuries. That seems reasonable, don’t you think? (I’ve never criticized any other media enterprise for doing that.)

Moreover, if you don’t like the ads on the site, there’s a simple way to make them go away: Sign up for Uni Watch Plus. I wish everyone would do that, so the site could be ad-free for everyone. Problem solved! (If only there were a similar way to make ads on uniforms go away.)

So if you think there’s an apples-to-apples comparison to be made between the kinds of advertising that I critique and the kind of advertising that appears on this website, well, you can think that if you want. But I respectfully disagree.