Opinion: Why the Breakers' controversial sponsor doesn't matter

Opinion 14/10/2018
Photo: Photosport.

By Andrew Gourdie.

OPINION: Before this week, I had never heard of Barstool Sports. And I bet there's plenty of you reading this who hadn't either.

Which gives us a cracking irony to this week's outrage over a round circle featuring a barstool sitting front and centre on the playing singlet of the New Zealand Breakers.

That stool could have occupied that space for the entire NBL season and I really can't say with any certainty whether it would have occurred to me to stop what I was doing, and spend time looking into what the sign meant and what it represented.

From reading media reports, I now know Barstool Sports is a satirical website which has been known to publish and broadcast sexist, misogynistic content. The website's founder, whose name I don't care to recall because he sounds like a complete muppet, has been known to say some pretty gross things about women and encourage rape culture. No wonder I hadn't heard of him or his site.

What really seems to bother people about this particular example, is that Barstool Sports completely goes against the family values the Breakers, led and developed by long-time owners Paul and Liz Blackwell, were built on.

But Paul and Liz aren't just really nice people, they're really smart people as well. So when they decided to sell part of the club they love and care for, they would have done their due diligence and known that they were giving over part of the Breakers to the very same people who own, and contribute to, Barstool Sports.

Does the tone of the content on Barstool Sports match with what the Blackwells built at the Breakers? On the face of it, absolutely not.

The Breakers have become a great source of wholesome family entertainment, no question. But it's not as though the Barstool Sports guys are doing the court announcing. They're not making sleazy, sexist comments to women at the games.

Will this sponsorship turn fans away from the Breakers? I suspect the answer is no. Why? Because at the end of the day, fans do not choose to support or stop supporting a team due to the arrival or departure of a sponsor.  

The fact is, if you dig around about a lot of companies, especially some that sponsor sports teams, you're bound to discover things you don't like, or feel ain't quite right.

Has it ever bothered a Breakers fan that the team's primary naming sponsor is a casino? One which has previously attracted the attention of the Department of Internal Affairs for failing in its host responsibility to monitor and intervene when presented with examples of problem gambling among its patrons?

Banks love to sponsor sports teams. Do fans ever stop to consider that some of those banks invest in weapons manufacturers and cluster munitions? Essentially - the companies that fund war around the world? Of course they don't.

All sports fans, and certainly the owners of sports teams care about, is that those sponsorship dollars are going towards making the team better.

It won't be a controversial sponsor that drives fans away from Spark Arena. If the Breakers' opening game of the season is anything to go by, it's the lacklustre opening display against the Brisbane Bullets that will have the owners concerned, and leave fans wondering whether they'll be back.

Andrew Gourdie is a sports presenter for Newshub and RadioLIVE Sunday Sport host.