Bob Costas: NBA Social Justice Messaging Alienated Fans

AP Photo_Ashley Landis (1)
AP Photo/Ashley Landis

Legendary sports broadcaster Bob Costas recently cited the NBA’s decision to “thrust” social justice messaging “into everyone’s face,” for getting in the way of the business of earning viewers and fans.

In an interview with Outkick, the long-time NBC sportscaster was straightforward about all the social justice messaging and woke displays indulged by the NBA this season. He said all the league’s mania over social justice directly led to a loss of fans.

“It doesn’t matter where you fall on the political spectrum,” Costas told OutKick, “it’s just a fact that there is alienation over having this (social justice messaging) thrust in everyone’s face every time you just want to watch a game. I’m not saying that to take a stand; that’s just the reality. This is also a business.”

Indeed, by the time the ratings for last game in the NBA Finals was tallied, it became clear that the 2020 championship series became the lowest rated in modern NBA history. The ratings were terrible, and not by just a little.

Costas also pointed out that the league has not only been uneven in its sudden indulgence of the players’ feelings, but it has actually been discriminatory.

The NBC legend noted that athletes had used their high-profile platforms to push for social issues for decades. But this season the NBA unfairly squashed some messages while allowing others.

Costas wondered why the NBA allowed all the tributes to Black Lives Matter but squashed messages such as “Free Hong Kong.” Costas also asked what would happen if a player wanted to sport a pro-Trump slogan. And he also wondered aloud why that wouldn’t be OK.

Ultimately, Costas advised the NBA to put its focus back on sports. He used the mess over money that drove so many fans to distraction against Major League Baseball in the 1990s. After the arguing subsided, though, baseball fans got revved up about the game all over again when Cal Ripkin began approaching Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played. And then there was the home run contest between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa that earned fan enthusiasm. MLB came roaring back when the game once again became the league’s focus, and that is what Costas said the NBA needs to do.

These comments from Costas hold weight chiefly because he was one of the original, woke sportscasters. Costas has never been shy about inserting his liberal politics into his broadcasts over the years. Yet, even he thinks the NBA went too far with its focus on social justice.

But, the NBA’s bosses may have already come to understand where it all went wrong. Early in October, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver noted that next year the BLM stuff would recede into the background, and the focus would be back on the game.

“My sense is there’ll be somewhat a return to normalcy, that those messages will largely be left to be delivered off the floor. And, I understand those people who are saying, ‘I’m on your side, but I want to watch a basketball game,'” Silver said.

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