Less than a week ago, the National Basketball League launched its new television advertising campaign to promote the commencement of the 2010/11 NBL season. The campaign features an amusing, irreverent and ultimately surprisingly controversial commercial. The spot shows a number of stars from across the league infiltrating a family home to presumably portray the message that the NBL is entering your household in a big way.
Sounds smart. Sounds innovative. Sounds good — right?
Well, according to a few former league legends, the answer is no. Leroy Loggins, Cal Bruton and Darryl McDonald claim that the ad is tainted by racism, as it shows American import Taj McCullough jumping into bed with a married couple.
The thing is, I’m sure McCullough didn’t see it that way, otherwise surely he would have refused. I’m pretty sure the league didn’t see it that way when they commissioned the ad — they have no reason to promote racism given their history as a multi-ethnicity employer, with a diverse customer-base. And as a viewer, I certainly didn’t see it that way… like how I imagine most viewers saw it, this was merely a fun moment in a commercial that is full of levity and humour.
This sounds like a majorly sensitive and out-dated position taken by the group of former players. The world that we live in today is populated by far too much political correctness — a world of people afraid to pull a joke for fear of offending the smallest of minorities. If anything, they’re creating a racist differentiation that is not necessary — highlighting McCullough’s race without cause.
As it appears to me, McCullough was simply the most charismatic and affable of the players in the ad and the most capable of pulling off the humour contained in that scene. Does the entire commercial pertain to basketball? Directly, no. However that is the beauty of a good advertisement — it catches the attention of the viewer and is memorable.
Enough of my opinion though. Watch the advert and decide for yourself.
The following quotes come from the Herald Sun:
For some, it evoked memories of former Sydney Kings player Bryant Matthews, who was jailed for rape when he was found in similar circumstances as an unwanted third person in bed with a couple in Sydney in 2006.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Leroy Loggins, a Brisbane Bullets legend.
“Why would you show a black American jumping into bed with a man’s wife to promote basketball? I don’t even know how someone could think up a commercial like that. You would never see any other sport in the world, that takes themselves seriously, portraying a black athlete that way.”
Melbourne Tigers great Darryl McDonald said: “It puts black Americans in a bad light. That commercial has nothing to do with basketball. Nobody else would present their sport this way.
“It’s supposed to be in fun but not everyone will think the same way.”
NBL Hall of Famer Cal Bruton said he contacted Basketball Australia and Ten about the ad.
“They are treading a minefield of racism,” Bruton said.
He said he was told by BA chairwoman Diane Smith-Gander that the promotion would be “pulled”, while Ten’s head of sport David White told him via email his remarks were “pertinent and duly noted”.
But the ad was still on air yesterday and Ten’s head of sport marketing, Sam Heard, said there was no chance it would be axed.
“It is designed as a fun, light-hearted promo highlighting the fact the NBL is back in people’s homes, on free-to-air air television,” he said.
The NBL is desperate to rebuild its image after several teams collapsed in recent years.
“It was not meant to offend,” BA boss Larry Sengstock said.