(Still N.J.) Nets Shooting to Wash Fans in Green

A new green initiative from the NBA’s New Jersey Nets masks much deeper sustainable sins being perpetrated by the team as it preps its move to Brooklyn.

In being a sports fan as in being a participant in the world, circa 2007, a certain internal spam filter is necessary. So much of what we see and hear is often so blithely, obviously dishonest as to be either thoroughly laughable or seriously depressing, depending on your perspective and mood. Where the spam filter comes in is in knowing what to discount — the lawyer-penned non-apology apologies; the clock-killing answers on Meet the Press; the fervid press releases — and what to keep. Leaving aside a foul-baiting flop here and a feigned hit-by-pitch there, sports as they are played are fairly straightforward. It’s when the front offices come into play that it’s time to turn the spam filter on. And so it is with the New Jersey Nets’ new “Shoot To Be Green” initiative. As one of many uninspiring old Nets billboard slogans proclaimed, “You can’t fake a fast break.” Greenwashing a franchise, however, is another story.

This is not to say that the Nets initiative isn’t a laudable idea. It is. But weasel-words abound in the team’s press release: “targeting” becoming the first NBA team to become carbon neutral is admirable, and would become doubly so in the unlikely event that it ever becomes possible. Ditto for the stated goal of “adopting sustainable practices in the operations they control,” which translates more to buying recycled copier paper than it does to creating a more energy-efficient Izod Center. That 30-year old arena is owned by The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, not the Nets.

While it’s hard to get too angry at the Nets for trying to brand themselves as a green franchise, it’s important to spot the broader fraud behind all this. While the franchise hangs Seventh Generation paper towels in its administrative washrooms, owner Bruce Ratner is simultaneously in the process of spending $500 million in his Atlantic Yards development, an increasingly Quixotic project which promises to leave a Cloverfield-sized carbon footprint upon a borough that seems, frankly, not to want it very much. A move to Newark’s new, significantly more mass transit-accessible (if non-LEED) Prudential Center would seem to be more in keeping with the team’s new green philosophy. That’s assuming of course, that such a philosophy actually exists.

It will take more than green giveaways – fans at January 14th’s Nets/Blazers game received an “eco” ballpoint pen (and a lethargic 30-point Nets loss) – for the Nets sustainability talk to be more than buzz-begging PR. But we’re sure Ratner and his PR maestro, Brett Yormark, are “targeting” that goal, too.

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