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When sponsorships cross the line

It was bound to happen. An Associated Press communique tells us that the National Basketball Association will allow advertising on players' uniforms next season.

Of course, we already know that sports are big business, and feel sure that our nation's economy would crash if Americans gave up sports altogether. But all of those fanatical fans bear a heavy financial burden. The New York Yankees, for instance, have an annual payroll of $197.9 million. The average Yankee is paid $6.2 million a year.

That's a lot of beer.

So I understand that the NBA really needs the $100 million that small advertising patches on jerseys will bring in, but these costs seem slightly out of line. Back when I played town team basketball, my jersey identified me as "Ed's Pool Hall," and I wasn't paid anything. Ed simply furnished a free basketball shirt for me (and the players who succeeded me).

We are familiar with the small patches of advertising that are photographed on golfers shirts and caps. We've seen the gaudy advertising that covers racing cars, and we're aware of the dollars that change hands when FedEx Stadium becomes the name of a sports arena in our nation's capital -- or when Tostitos owns the Fiesta Bowl.

But I'm afraid that this greedy trend might be carried too far. I'm not sure the world is ready for a "Coors Beer shortstop Derek Jeter" or a "Texaco quarterback Eli Manning."

You understand, don't you, how this advertising game is played? Big Business pays for the right to use Eli's name and then places its message on his uniform. They're hoping that sportswriters and sportscasters will send pictures and stories which mention their names -- for free, of course.

So the TV stations and newspapers would be cheated because they didn't receive one thin dime for this publicity.

Worse yet is the possibility that sports officials could be involved. How could a "CitiBank referee" be trusted? Or a "BP head linesman?"

Then another problem must be faced. All athletes are not equal. Tiger Woods should cost more than other golfers, and sports agents might claim quarterback Aaron Rodgers is just as valuable as Peyton Manning.

This team advertising could upset the pro athletes too. You see, they're individually selling space on caps and shirts as endorsements. A space on a golfer's cap is worth as much as $250,000, and he sells his left collar for upward of $200,000.

Right now, the NBA advertising is controversial but is expected to become standard. The gold mine that can be found on athletes' garb could take over the sports world.

In which case, Ed's Pool Hall owes me big time.

Darrel Miller lives near Downs in rural Osborne County and is a retired weekly newspaper editor.