Is the NBA FANtastic? Or do they just want fans to pay money and leave the arena? After a recent experience I had, it looks like the latter. – Scot Pollard (@scotpollard31)
Recently as part of my radio show, “Rock Chalk Sports Talk” (daily from 4-6 central, though I usually am on Thursdays! Check us out on KLWN.com) I went to Oklahoma City for a weekend of sports. Our contest winners were two boys, 19 and 13. We first went to the KU/OU game on saturday. Post game, the contest winners got down near the court and were able to catch a couple pics and autographs with former Jayhawks and current Oklahoma City Thunder teammates Cole Aldridge and Nick Collison.
Security made sure the players weren’t in an unsafe situation, but as long as they wanted to sign, people were allowed to approach. Even I was asked for a couple pics and autographs while catching up with the guys.
The next day we went to the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Lakers game on Feb. 27. We had passes which allowed us to wait around near the OKC tunnel and get some autographs and pics of Thunder players should they decide to come out of the tunnel and interact with fans.
OR SO WE THOUGHT!
One player came out and sat down. He was texting on his phone, minding his own business. The boys decided to ask for an autograph. He was nice, and complied. Another player walked out of the tunnel. Same story, he was nice and signed for the boys. Then security came over and said, “who left you the passes?”
“Well, he needs to be present for you to ask another player for an autograph.”
Seriously? when did this happen? I’m sitting there with these kids who have never been this close to an NBA player before that weekend and were having a great time. I’m wearing my NBA championship ring. I’m sitting with Bud Stallworth, who played for the Seattle Supersonics (NOW THE FREAKING OKC THUNDER!). And we are being told we can’t ask an NBA player for an autograph?
Kevin Durant walked out. There is no way in hell I’m gonna tell these two kids they can’t ask for KD’s autograph. He’s one of the best players in the league, and this opportunity isn’t gonna happen to these kids again. So they go over and ask for his autograph. He smiles, signs for both of them. Security SPRINTS up two stairs, came over and said, “You’re gonna have to leave!”
We got kicked out of the arena for asking an NBA player for an autograph! Let’s remember that the players can leave the arena in private, and only come out of the tunnel if they want to.
Bud Stallworth was speechless. I was speechless, and trust me, that’s not easy to do! What follows is my letter to the OKC Thunder front office, for dissemination to all concerned staff members and security personnel:
To Whom it May Concern,
The NBA has an image problem. The players get some of the most lucrative contracts in professional sports. They are the most recognizable in sports due to their above-average height, as well as their close proximity to the fan. No helmet, no hat is going to hide the face of a seven-footer enough that people aren’t going to recognize him. That being the case, some NBA players make themselves scarce in the public eye so as not to have to deal with fans when having a bad day. You probably have run into a player due to your job and interacted with him. He may have been a jerk to you. It’s because he thinks he’s better than you.
This summer, there will be a lockout. This is because the owners are going to try to pay players less, with less guaranteed money. The players are going to argue that without them there is no league, and that the revenue sharing has been mutually beneficial for all. This lockout may last into the season, possibly even canceling the entire season. This will put all of you out of a job.
Fans will not continue to pay money to see owners and players fight over it. Fans want to be entertained. Fans want to run into a player and get his autograph and maybe even a picture. Fans want a memory for their money. When the lockout ends, you’re going to have to go through extensive meetings to figure out how to convince fans to come back to the arenas again. And before all of this, you kick people who played in the league and were guests of a player out of the arena for asking for autographs? This has only furthered the notion that players are unapproachable (though they themselves acted nice). This makes the OKC Thunder look terrible, and there is absolutely NOTHING you could say or do to make me come to another NBA game in that arena.
You’ve lost a fan.
Disappointed and disgusted,
Scot Pollard, 11-year NBA veteran