LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Carmelo Anthony, and Giannis Antetokoumpo are just some of the players who spoke up against the All-Star game this season. COVID is still far from being under any sort of control, and having a party in Atlanta doesn't seem like a smart idea. If Kawhi Leonard speaks up on something, you know how strongly he feels about it.
“It’s money on the line; it’s an opportunity to make more money. Just putting money over health right now, pretty much.”
LeBron went even further, saying the game is a “slap in the face” the players who started the season with an understanding there will be no All-Star game this year. It's no secret the NBA is doing this for the money and to support a good business relationship with one of its TV partners - TNT. Yesterday, Sam Amick from The Athletic reported on how much money is at stake.
“In normal (non-COVID-19) times, All-Star weekend is extremely important for TNT — a tentpole event, if you will. There’s a corporate sponsorship component that will surely be lessened because of the COVID-19 concerns, but a source with knowledge of the network’s finances said Turner makes approximately $30 million in ad revenue alone during that weekend. That figure would be much higher when one considers the All-Star weekend in its totality, and others estimate that mark is much higher (as much as double). Either way, it’s a lot.”
Sam Amick, The Athletic
Amick pointed out All-Star weekend isn't written in stone in the contract and not having it wouldn't be an automatic breach of contract. But wanting to keep a good relationship with TNT, the league decided to go forward with the festivities. The most jarring part of Amick's reporting is that the folks at TNT were a bit surprised, as they went into this season with the understanding there would be no game - and seemed OK with it.
To be fair, players are playing this season, and played in the bubble, for the money as well. Let's not pretend they are here only for an altruistic love of basketball. Both players and the league worked hard to get to 72 games last and this year to maximize earnings from TV deals. If any of the players feel health is more important than money, they can take the year off and stay safe at home.
Still, All-Star weekend seems like a terrible idea. If the $30 million number is correct, I don't think it's worth the risk. Bringing so many people to Atlanta has all the potential of a super spreader event. But I may not be just about the $30 million.
Many people explained All-Star week is as much about networking as it is about partying. Basketball is a distant third. Leaders from the tech world, media, and finance all converge to wherever it's happening, and a lot of business relationships and deals are made during that week.
We'll see if all that will be worth it in the end.