The dangers of youtube for NBA players

By Vincent Thomas

The two most compelling pieces of multimedia to hit our eyes and ears in recent weeks have come compliments of the sports world. It may not have been as deviantly entertaining as the vitriol Alec Baldwin spewed at his daughter in a voicemail, but Roger Clemens taped phone conversation with snitch Brian McNamee was some bizarre stuff. A 17-minute garble of evasion, and probable collusion. It was essentially a backwards, foolish attempt by Clemens to prove his innocence. Pull back the curtain, though, and it was basically broadcasting McNamee’s attempts to barter his silence for some cheddar that can get him out of his “one bedroom apartment” and help his sick son. The staged banality and melodrama of it all was stupid and asinine enough to make it entertaining.

On the other end of the comic and mood spectrum came the instant-classic YouTube clip featuring Chris Bosh as a slick-talkin’, country-bumpkin and his brother, Joel, as Bubba, a snaggle-tooth vagrant and Yes Man. The video was a plea from Bosh, asking his fans to vote him into the Feb. 17 NBA All-Star Game, set in the Big Easy. The images were grainy, the music was jacked from a backwoods car salesman commercial and the acting was deplorable. All that added up to something that was like the best thing ever, specifically coming from such a reserved, understated athlete like Bosh, who has always played an introvert in the public. My first thought was, “I wish every potential All-Star hit us with user-generated campaign videos.” But then I thought about it and changed my mind.

Jim LaBumbard is the Toronto Raptors head of PR. He said Bosh made the video on Christmas Eve with his girlfriend, cousin and brother. The Raptors staff loves it, as they should. But LaBumbard also confirmed that this video was posted on YouTube and Bosh’s website without the organization having looked at it first.

That’s a problem, fam.

I hate to rain on this parade, but as innocent and essentially awesome as the Bosh video is, the larger issue is a problematic one. The larger issue is the potential danger of YouTube.

Give any rich young person some time on their hands and things can go awry. YouTube is the Wild West. And with the NBA, NFL, NCAA and MLB not setting forth any Best Practices when it comes to personal websites, blogs and user generated videos posted on viral websites, all of these leagues and their teams and players are at high risk to do or say something stupid that could spiral into a complete public relations catastrophe. Even Bosh’s video, on a very slight level, could be misconstrued as stereotyping — instead of parodying — and invite ignorant criticism from those that rock mullets or the kind that eat granola on liberal campuses.

With this possibility, imagine what could go down if, say, Stephon Marbury and his boys wanted to film a house party with a couple 40 strippers and a few interns. You’d have an updated Tip Drill and Stern would have a problem.

You ever see this video of the Clipse clappin’ back at Lil Wayne for some magazine remarks? In the video, Pusha lets Weezy know that gunplay is not a problem if the situation needs to go that way. But, these kinds of videos are standard fare for rap dudes. 50 Cent got at Cam’ron in his “Funeral Music” video, which went directly to YouTube. It featured cats taking target practice with some big guns – the message was not subliminal. That was cool…for 50. Ray Allen cannot make a similar video after Lamar Odom tackles him into the sidelines. Of course, Ray Allen would never do such a thing to begin with, but the point is that this new option for expression is now available to athletes, but there is nothing more than vague language in Collective Bargaining agreements that lay out what kind of behavior dips below whatever subjective standards the public and fans deem to be “in good taste.”

What if young Julian Wright is steamin’ at the fact that Byron Scott won’t let him off the bench to get some burn? All it could take was a little to much Grey Goose, a Brandon Wright highlight on SportsCenter, cue jealousy and the next thing we know, Julian is on his laptop, logging into Facebook, writing a totally honest blog where all those unsaid things that need to stay unspoken just come pouring out.

Or maybe it’s not that. Maybe Adam Morrison sees an Eva Mendez movie while he’s out nursing his injured mustache and maybe she hopefully gets nude in this movie and maybe Morrisson makes an off-colored joke about Mexican woman in his blog, you know, trying to be funny. Maybe that causes a little stir. Maybe it causes a big stir. Maybe his next visit to San Antonio will be met with angry Mexican fans in the stands.

What if Darius Miles gets all the young Portland Trailblazers together to hang out and while hanging, they record some audio or shoot a video of some good-natured, innocent freestyle rhyming, because they want to and because they can. But what if the freestyle rhyming is done in the language and with the bravado of any normal rap song? The KC Chiefs monster-back Larry Johnson decided to bless the mic with some wack rhymes last year and some rube that was in the cipher posted the audio on his MySpace page and then it went viral. Nothing wrong with a young dude, like LJ, snatching the mic and getting it in like a ’07 Young MC. The only problem is that some found Johnson’s use of the word “nigga” to be offensive and Johnson had a public relations issue on his hands. Well, getting back to the Blazers, maybe LaMarcus Aldridge posts the hypothetical video of him and his squad on YouTube and his Facebook page, thinking everything is love. He might think that rhyming “lots of &!%$#$” and “Popoviches” was clever. David Stern, Paul Allen and the dude that owns one of the luxury boxes probably won’t agree.

The fact is, until some type of policing agent sets some ground rules and boundaries, humans – yes, even adults – will keep pushing envelopes. As humans, we should know that entrusting folks with using common sense is not always a paradigm built for success. I mean, Isaiah Thomas, maybe-probably/most-likely was sexually harassing a woman that looked like Rick Mahorn…in the 2007 workplace! People not only need guidelines, they need reminders (Zeke needed a Benjamin-wad wake-up slap).

There’s a problem, though. The NBA, as with all other sports entities, is a reactionary league. These leagues wait until things become a huge problem and then try to bring about solutions. They wait until it becomes a nasty mess and then try to clean it up. They let things fester, hoping it’ll either go away or sanity and sound-decision making will reappear and rule the day.

It took doo-rags, white-Ts and sagging attendance to galvanize the NBA to getting serious about re-imaging itself, but by that time, it called for drastic measures – like a league-wide dress code. It took a tossed beer and medieval Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson before the league thought about alcoholic beverage limits for fans, extra-security and clear language about on-court behavior. It took teams calling cocaine timeouts in the 70s for the league to get serious about it’s drug policy. It took Glen Robinson signing a 10-year $68 million rookie contract before they instituted a “rookie cap.”

Foresight is needed.

I’m not calling for a YouTube moratorium. More Bosh videos are a good thing. Gilbert Arenas’ blog is a wonderful thing. But the league needs to be proactive and prescient and jump out ahead of this thing. Set some boundaries, articulate possible sanctions for ill behavior – sorry, but a police is needed here. Left up to his own devices, Scott Pollard might choose to reenact a scene from Monster’s Ball, post it on YouTube and call it art. But the distance between art and smut is about as long as Pollard’s range. YouTube is dangerous, I’m telling you.