Beatz & Lyrics Show

What Atlanta’s NBA Franchise Can Learn From The Miami Heat: Pay Attention You’re Missing A Payday!

JayForce recently gave on-air commentary (on The Remix and the Beatz & Lyrics shows) about his experiences at the last game of the 2012 NBA finals, about King-with-his-first-ring Lebron James, and about the welcome feel of the arena and locale. I took in all he said: the game being an incredible experience, the King’s ring being well-deserved, the Heat being the team of destiny (giving thanks to all those Lebron haters who lost bets to him), and that Miami knows how to celebrate. However, the comments that would follow – building on that last point – were likely what gave listeners the most to think about…that in Atlanta, fans are being dissed AND that money is being missed!


Referring to the city and to the Heat franchise collectively, JayForce declared that Miami knows how to party due in large part to a demonstrated knowledge of WHO is coming to the games. There was a house band that brought much Latin flavor to the party in the stands throughout the game. The band and the fans were so live that JayForce asked aloud, “Is this regular, or just for the Finals?” To which a fellow spectator replied, “Oh yeah, bro. This is ALL THE TIME. That’s how we do it here!” The concessions menu offered much in the way Latin flavor, too. And, in kicking off the post-game celebration, fans of the Heat took to the streets; revelers representing all cultures…and, of course, the Latin flavor was everywhere (and yes, the EYE CANDY was spectacular)!

Now, the wheels in JayForce’s head began to turn. A Latino fan base is not the typical presumption one would make in guessing who buys pro basketball tickets; but they were in the house that night. Obviously, Miami knew that. Accordingly, the Heat, the arena, and the city were ready for them – with among other things, a live band playing tunes they would enjoy, a concessions area serving food they would enjoy, and a festive atmosphere set for revelers immediately following what would be the final game of 2012.

Sounds wonderful right, and it probably was. But, sadly, JayForce had to leave to catch the return flight to Atlanta before the celebration really got started. On the flight back, JayForce reflected on how things are and should be in A-town. Atlanta nightlife is off the chain, but not because its NBA franchise, the Hawks, really reaches out during the season (or post-season for that matter); and not because the city itself has done much more than get Phillips Arena built on the MARTA rail line for convenience. Later, on air, JayForce agreed with Gerald Olivari, host of The Remix, affirming that Atlanta has the largest Black pro basketball fan attendance compared to that of any arena in the country. Gerald would know; as he has made a point of going to see games at many arenas across the United States. Well, seeing the large Latino fan base obviously welcomed by the Heat (because “that’s how they do it”), JayForce wondered why Black fans of the Hawks do not get that kind of love in Atlanta. Now, to be fair, Atlanta does have its share of “fair weather fans” (Black people included). However, is not the Atlanta Hawks’ business to win and build a loyal fan base (read: to market to and woo its customers)? Assuming that that is an important part of the Hawks’ business, were it known that many, if not most, of the ticket buyers in attendance were Black, would it not make good business sense for Atlanta (city and team) to make special overtures to them (as is done for the Latino fans in Miami)? A band…a revamped menu…I don’t know…something?

Now, I (ojones1) have never attended a Hawks game personally; but Gerald and JayForce have been to Hawks AND Heat games; and they say Atlanta is falling WAY short of the mark with regard to marketing to its Black fan base. I trust their assessment. That said, I do read Bloomberg Businessweek (BBW) every week (because that’s how I do); and a recent issue offered insights, courtesy of film director/producer Spike Lee, that were germane to this discussion. Spike Lee told BBW’s Diane Brady: “I don’t think Hollywood understands diversity. The sports world is 50 years ahead. There’s a large audience of people of color who aren’t being thought of.” That said, this next statement could sting a bit, but it needs to be made. At least with respect to showing such to the Hawks’ Black ticket buyers (present and potential), I do not think Atlanta understands diversity, either. It seems that we are years behind in the area of sports hospitality (at least in comparison to Miami).

In closing his comments on Beatz & Lyrics, as well as on The Remix, JayForce vowed that if he ever came into a large enough sum of money, he would buy a large enough stake in the Atlanta franchise to allow him to drive the organization (and the city) to cater to Black fans more…WAY more! Point blank: It is a moneymaking opportunity that is being missed! So, Atlanta, pay attention! Be about your business. As Tony Montana said (in the movie Scarface, how appropriate that the movie was set in Miami), the Hawks ought to be “picking gold from the streets!”


Then again, what could be missing is a fundamental understanding of the nature of owning a NBA franchise. Here again, the Miami Heat – specifically its owner, Micky Arison – has something to teach the Atlanta Hawks. Though relied upon by many owners as a money-maker in this down economy, Mr. Arison believes that a NBA franchise should be looked upon as a hobby of passion, not a business. Perhaps the Hawks ownership should employ tactics in keeping with the wisdom espoused by Mr. Arison: Forget about making money in the NBA, and remember what should bring owners into the NBA in the first place: a desire to compete and win! Pump up those competitive juices that are likely no longer part of day-to-day life in other business pursuits. Winning… passion… for the team and the town… that is what is most important. I bet that is how the fans feel.


Leave a Reply