Groups Urge the NBA to Ban Courtside Booze Ads

Ads promote consumption, send harmful message to underage sports fans, says CSPI


WASHINGTON—The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and dozens of health, youth advocacy, and other organizations are urging the National Basketball Association to reverse its decision to allow courtside hard-liquor advertisements and other alcohol promotions on team web sites, retail locations, and inside arenas. To increase revenue, team owners recently voted to lift the ban of these ads, which would add to the deluge of beer ads that already air on NBA telecasts. For the first time, the ads would promote drinking liquor to thousands of underaged fans and link professional basketball to drinking liquor, according to CSPI.

In a letter to NBA Commissioner David J. Stern, CSPI and dozens of other groups, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), and the Society for Adolescent Medicine, urged the NBA to reconsider its decision and ban all alcohol advertising, including beer, during its telecasts. Allowing liquor advertising is a break with a long-standing ban and part of an ominous trend toward expanding the advertising of all alcoholic beverages during programs that attract young and underage viewers.

"The NBA congratulates itself on its youth-outreach and community programs, yet it is poised to increase its profits by exposing young fans to more ads for rum, whiskey, vokda, and of course, beer," said Tracy Downs, manager of CSPI’s Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV. "Granted, the league has some hefty salaries, but is that really a sufficient excuse to encourage young people to start drinking liquor earlier?"

With its Jr. NBA and Jr. WNBA programs, the NBA has a strong relationship with young fans through summer camps, tournaments, skill clinics, and other activities. Promoting alcohol consumption during telecasts also contradicts the NBA’s public relations and community-building activities, specifically the NBA CARES program, which addresses social issues in the United States and worldwide.

Alcohol plays a significant role in the four leading causes of death among peoples ages 10 to 24, including motor-vehicle crashes, unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide. Studies link teens' exposure to alcohol advertising with more frequent and heavier drinking. Alcohol use by young people may cause long-term harm to their developing brains.

CSPI's Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV seeks to reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising on televised college sports. Since 2005, 372—more than one-third—NCAA-member colleges and 16 college athletic conferences have signed the campaign's pledge to help eliminate alcohol advertisements from college sports telecasts.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at] or Ariana Stone (astone[at]