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The NBA’s “Green” Phoniness

A broad-based movement for promoting environmental cleanliness and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil is long overdue.  For some companies, however, “going green” is more useful as a marketing ploy than as a way of doing business — leading to campaigns that are “green” only in the greenback sense.

Take the National Basketball Association’s current “Green Week.”  Of course, the NBA is claiming that its primary aim is to “generate awareness and funding to protect the environment.”  It has therefore released a list of tips for “living” and “working” environmentally, as well as encouraged some NBA stars to speak on “green” issues.

But before The Huffington Post gets all excited (too late), perhaps it’s worth noting that the primary thrust of “Green Week” is a blatant merchandizing blitz.  First, the NBA has outfitted all thirty teams with organic cotton warm-up shirts, with the NBA’s special “Green Week” logo front and center.   (In case you had any doubts, these shirts are already available for $24.99 in men’s and women’s sizes, complete with a massive Adidas logo on the left sleeve.)  Second, the NBA has issued special “Green Week” basketballs (this product is also, naturally, available for purchase).  Third, at least three teams — the Denver Nuggets, Charlotte Bobcats, and Chicago Bulls — are marking the occasion by wearing — you guessed it — green uniforms, with some players matching these one-time get-ups with green sneakers and sweatbands.

Of course, the NBA isn’t the first sports league to engage in this sort of cynical “green” campaign.  Back in February, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl Championship t-shirts carried an obnoxious sticker, with the NFL pretending as though it was saving the environment by producing tons of useless merchandise (h/t UniWatch).  Still, insofar as the NFL always issues commemorative t-shirts to celebrate its champions, perhaps it can be credited with finding an environmentally preferable way to waste resources that were going to be wasted anyway.

The NBA, on the other hand, has wasted new resources.  Indeed, rather than making special warm-up shirts for “Green Week,” wouldn’t it have been more eco-friendly for teams to just reuse their normal shooting shirts?  Or, rather than manufacturing special basketballs with the word “recycle” emblazoned on them in green, why didn’t the socially-conscious NBA simply recycle game-balls from previous nights?  The green uniform gimmick is particularly wasteful: since the green-wearing teams naturally donned their special jerseys at home (how else could they market these jerseys to their hometown fans?), their opponents were forced to pack their white jerseys – in addition to the dark uniforms that they would ordinarily wear on the road – for their entire road trips!  How much jet fuel was wasted lugging around this unnecessary double baggage?

My advice: if the NBA really wants to “go green,” it should start by mandating a sharp reduction in the number of costume changes – and therefore laundry cycles – for the dance ensembles that barely entertain fans during time-outs.  It should also prevent teams from signing Stephon Marbury during the coming off-season.  Talk about a waste of jet fuel.



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