Bad boys, bad for sponsors?

New York Knicks head coach Isiah Thomas holds a press conference prior to a Dec. 18 matchup with the Utah Jazz, his team's first game since Saturday's brawl with the Denver Nuggets.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: What is going on in the NBA and the NFL? You've probably seen the video of that brawl at Saturday night's game at Madison Square Garden between the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets. Seven players were suspended and a million dollars in fines have been levied. In the NFL, three dozen players have been arrested this year on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to felony burglary. How will all this affect the bottom line of both leagues — if at all? David Carter is the executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute. I asked him about the economic impact for the NBA.

DAVID CARTER: I think with all this that's going on, it's disappointing but not that surprising and I think because it comes as little surprise, the economic fallout in the short-run might be somewhat limited. But I think the extent of the financial damage in the long-run is gonna be a function of just how much leadership David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, demonstrates, especially when he's out there talking to sponsors, when he's working with the TV networks and others. And if he can assuage their concerns and their fears about what's going on in the league, then the damage will be mitigated. But if not, if they're not satisfied with this, over time — not in days or weeks, but over time, maybe a season or so, then you may see the real financial impact hit the NBA.

THOMAS: Now you've got teams that are affected by fines financially, but you also have teams that are affected when they have star players who are sitting out for a couple of weeks.

CARTER: Well, that's right, that's one of the real delicate issues that sports faces, is do you sit these people down that are running afoul of the law, that are breaking rules and regulations within the league, and run the risk of not having fans tune in?

THOMAS: What's your sense of where the fans and player's union are on this?

CARTER: Well I actually think both the fans and the players associations are complicit in this. The fans don't tend to curtail their consumption at all and I think the unions are also part of the problem. And when I say that they're part of the problem, it's not because they should not be collectively bargaining on behalf of the athletes and it's not because the players they represent don't have rights, but more so that the league is always trying to improve cash flow, build franchise value, make more money for everybody involved. And yet you always see one party get involved and say, wait a minute, we really don't like this, we're going to fight this vigorously and it tends to be the union.

THOMAS: Is there a different standard for football? I mean , you know the Raiders have always had the rep of being big and bad and that doesn't seem to hurt them financially.

CARTER: You know I actually think it has harmed the Raiders. I mean their reputation has done precious little to generate any kind of corporate support. Their record, you know they're 2-12 I guess so far this season . You combine winning with their reputation right now and it's not one that really drives that kind of franchise value that we've spoken about many times on this show. But in terms of there being a different standard, I think the proximity of the NBA players to their fans, literally being so close and being courtside, the fact that they're not encumbered by helmets and heavy uniforms and that sort of thing as their NFL counterparts are, all create this level of intimacy, this in-your-face attitude, this animated style, that I think creates the perception that there might be a double standard because we think we know these players perhaps btter than we know the NFL ballplayers.

THOMAS: Thanks a lot David,

CARTER: Thank you.

THOMAS: David Carter is executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute. And in Los Angeles, I'm Mark Austin Thomas. Thanks for joining us. Have a great day.

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