Some In-Depth Thoughts on the Sixers and Their Business Practices

Photo credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t believe this is a day where I’m siding with both Howard Eskin and Angelo Cataldi. It would’ve been easy to go in on Cataldi for this ridiculous, nonsensical, almost-feels-racist take on Carson Wentz and Joel Embid in his most recent Philly Voice piece

What the debate comes down to, then, is whether Embiid will be able to play 60 or more games next season, or any season. If he can, he should be able to win the city over the same way Allen Iverson prevailed over Donovan McNabb 15 years ago. Talent and personality equals acclaim in Philadelphia, regardless of the sport.

But ultimately Wentz will win the race because he is more serious about success. On my WIP radio show last week, he unveiled a new charitable foundation, flashed a surprising sense of humor and reinforced his commitment to win at all costs.

Embiid is a character, but his zest for fun and his propensity for serious injury make him the definite underdog in this battle for the love of Philadelphia sports fans.

… but I’d rather focus on the daggers he fired at Sixers management over them charging fans to be on a waitlist for season tickets, a story which I’m pretty sure we broke:

The problem for a lifelong fan like me – over a half-century and counting – is that I do not have the liberty of rooting only for Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. When the Sixers win, alas, so do Josh Harris and Scott O’Neill – two carpetbaggers who don’t give a damn about the fans of this passionate sports city.

Our only solace right now is that Harris is bound to sell the team at the first major opportunity. He is, above all, a businessman. When the price is right, he and O’Neill will stuff their bags with our hard-earned money, jump into their fancy helicopter, and seek out the next financial bonanza.

He’s not… wrong. But discussing the Sixers’ business initiates requires some nuance.

I’m conflicted with regards to their practices. On one hand, as someone who is every bit as much interested in the business aspects of running this site as I am writing the content, I genuinely appreciate what the Sixers are doing on the business front– it’s super progressive, forward-thinking, and, for lack of a better description, smart. Their partnership with StubHub is such an obvious move that you wonder why more teams haven’t done it (more on that in a second). Leveraging the resources of their multiple professional sports teams (Sixers, Devils, and Crystal Palace), which is what happens when Sixers sales reps sell Devils tickets (yep), is a smart move to reduce costs. Partnering with companies like DraftKings and buying an e-sports teams are forward-thinking moves that skate to where the ball, er, Devils-branded puck is going. They’ve invested in a practice facility, re-branded themselves, invested sports science, and so on. In almost any other vertical, they would be lauded for their decisions. I think Scott O’Neil is smart, and on the few occasions I’ve talked to him or met him, I actually liked him.

But, sports are a different animal, especially in a city like Philly, where a large chunk of your audience is very blue collar or, quite frankly, downright poor. Those people are getting priced out of Sixers games more quickly than Flyers fans were in the 90s. I’m sure the Sixers could tick off a bunch of community outreach programs they’re involved with to get lower-income fans to games, but that’s pretty much par for the course when running a sports franchise. Little decisions, like not allowing season ticket holders to sell more than 10 games…

imposing draconian contest rules, hiding behind StubHub when setting single-game prices, selling season ticket holders gyms, charging to be on their waitlist, and perhaps even fudging season ticket demand, according to Howard Eskin, all add up to an organization that has borderline contempt for its fan base. Just doing some quick math here – I have no idea what the numbers actually are and the Sixers aren’t going to tell us – let’s say 5,000 people sign up for their season ticket waitlist (generous!) at an average of $100 per person (there are three tiers: FREE, $76 and $176), that’s $500k per year. That’s like an all-star bonus in one player’s contract. It’s not insignificant, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a drop in the hat and the sort of incremental, customer-hostile revenue that only businesses concerned with making their balance sheets look real pretty for an eventual sale would be interested in. To be fair, you could argue that the surveys on this site are the same exact sort of reader-hostile obstacle, but the fact is they are a necessary evil, don’t cost you any money, and, you know, I’m not an NBA franchise worth about $1 billion. What the Sixers seem to do, given every opportunity, is milk fans for every possible cent. Sports are somewhat of a public trust, and I do think there are ethical considerations when doing things like charging for a season ticket waitlist. The Warriors do it, but, ah, they’re the best team ever and can sort of justify it. The Sixers aren’t there yet. They might be soon. But they’re not there yet.

Worse, if Eskin is to be believed, and the Sixers are holding season tickets back to gauge market demand on StubHub and plan to “discover new inventory” after charging fans to be on a waitlist, then what they are doing is borderline fraudulent, perhaps not in a legal sense, but certainly in a moral one. Again, if that’s the case.

That’s why it’s so hard to talk about the Sixers’ business practices. No reasonable person would tell you they are not good bottom line moves, but they are also hostile toward dedicated fans who will now begin to get priced out of the experience. It remains to be seen if any of that will have a long-term impact – I doubt it will – but it still doesn’t make it right.

UPDATE: Eskin got it wrong. Dope.


22 Responses

  1. Shocking…another set of filthy Juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuusssssssssssssss stealing your shit.

    1. Kyle , as a man with a very small penis, are you intimidated by men like Eyton Shander who have humongous penises ?

    1. Eff you, Angelo is absolutely right. I love the way this team is being built but I fucking hate Jawsh Hairass can’t wait til that pube sniffer sells FUCK U TOO mouth feather O’Neil

  2. “The problem for a lifelong fan like me – over a half-century and counting”

    Yeah, a lifelong Sixers fan growing up in Rhode Island, I’m sure…

  3. JOSh Harris is a pos scumbag. Reminds me of an annoying stripper at scrupples double dipping for $2

  4. Stopped reading after the first sentence already included race bait.

  5. and I see OJ…and he be looking very relaxed and ready to be paroled! LOOK OUT!

  6. Why would the 76ers limit ticket holders to selling only 10 games on StubHub? That would directly interfere with their partnership with StubHub. It doesn’t make sense, especially since the franchise has been pushing members to utilize StubHub before they became a fixture on their jerseys. Im going to continue to operate “”Business as Usual” with my season tickets until told otherwise by my Ticket Rep and not some ludicrous conspiracy theorist trying to stir up trouble and generate click bait. Eskin is an idiot and anyone that listens to anything he says without valid proof is equally as much.

  7. Cataldi is all in with Wentz because McNabb’s success here made him and the morning show look ridiculous on a national level.

    That’s why he also said, “Sam Bradford is the greatest quarterback I’ve seen wear an Eagles’ uniform.”

    Wentz is going to flop.

  8. So sad to see what this site has become.
    Kyle, get a real job. The blogging life ain’t for you.
    BTW – Mika’s pussy smells funky…

  9. Just curious – I can’t stand Cataldi, but what is borderline racist about his statement? He is comparing two players but just because one is white and one is black doesn’t mean his opinion is based on that. Some people look for trouble!

  10. “Almost feels racist”

    Why? Because he dared to pick the white player? Because he critiqued the black player as if he wasn’t perfect?

    This blog is becoming unreadable.

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