Dribblers Against Gun Violence.
That’s the new pitch from NBA stars Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Joakim Noah and Carmelo Anthony, all of whom are now cutting ads for Everytown, an anti-gun group that sprang up in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. The commercials will run during NBA games on Christmas, and they call for mandatory background checks and closing the misnamed “gun show loophole.” The only tie-in to basketball from the group comes via Richard Martinez, whose son died at age 20 and apparently loved hoops.
“He would be thrilled that these players are doing this,” said Martinez. “He was a great fan.”
In Steph Curry’s ad, the superstar says, “I heard about a shooting involving a 3-year-old girl over the summer. My daughter Riley is that age.” Chris Paul says, “My parents always used to say a bullet doesn’t have a name.” Carmelo Anthony says, “The gun should never be an option.” Joakim Noah says, “We can all make a difference.” Then a group of people say, all together on split screen, “In the Untied States, 88 people die of gun violence every day.”
The caption flashes: “A message from the NBA and its players.”
Really? All of its players? Including the ones with armed security, and the ones who own guns?
It is worth noting that if the players wanted to actually push something worthwhile, they could push black viewers not to shoot each other. Statistics show that young black men are significantly more likely to be victims and perpetrators of gun violence than others – according to the Centers for Disease Control, young black men aged 20-24 are four times more likely to be shot and killed than to die in a car accident. As Bloomberg explains:
A young black man is nearly five times more likely to be killed by a gun than a young white man and 13 times more than an Asian American man. These numbers, dramatic as they are, actually understate the problem. If a black person is killed by a gun, it is judged a homicide 82 percent of the time. For the broad population, most gun deaths are ruled accidental or the result of suicide; only 34 percent of gun deaths are attributed to murder.
If young black people are more likely to die in gun violence and perpetrate gun violence, and if young black people constitute a disproportionate share of the NBA audience, NBA players might be better off telling NBA viewers not to participate in gun violence. According to Nielsen, black viewers of the NBA have increased their watch-time 63 percent from 2003-2004 to 2013-2014. Black viewers spent far more time than other viewers watching the NBA – as of the 2013-2013 season, they watched an average of 844 minutes per season, compared with 290 for white viewers. The NBA fan base is also disproportionately young. Black viewers aged 18-34 averaged 884 minutes of NBA watching that season, compared with 392 minutes for white viewers of the same age group.
If you want to fight gun violence, this would be a great audience to pitch.
For that matter, it might be worthwhile to push the message of the value of a two-parent family. Steph Curry grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, with both his parents in the home – his father, Dell, played in the NBA for the Hornets. Joakim Noah was born to a world-ranked tennis player and Miss Sweden 1978. He spent most of his childhood in Paris, and then return to play for the United Nations international School, as well as Poly Prep Country Day School and Lawrenceville School. Chris Paul also grew up in a two-parent family, and was coached by his father throughout his youth. He worked summers at a gas station owned by his grandfather. He attended West Forsyth High School in North Carolina, a highly-acclaimed public school. Only Anthony grew up in dire circumstances – his father died when Anthony was two, and Anthony grew up in the Red Hook projects in New York, where according to a friend, he saw everything “from drugs, to killings, to anything you can name.”
Wouldn’t it be better to talk about how Curry, Noah, and Paul all had a better shot at avoiding gun violence than Anthony for a reason?
But no. Instead, Everytown and the NBA will aim to make everyone feel good, instead of making a difference.