Guest Post by Matt Sloustcher
On Monday, the New York Knicks cut rookie forward Patrick Ewing Jr., the 6'8" second-round pick out of Georgetown and son of the most famous Knick in history.
According to team president Donnie Walsh, the decision took into account the Knicks’ troubled shooting skills. Other sources point to Jerome James, a fragile $30 million center that didn’t play one minute this pre-season.
Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: Knicks fans are not happy.
Over the course of his twenty-five minutes of action this pre-season, Ewing Jr. energized Madison Square Garden with a performance that included two dunks and a 3-pointer last Friday. Fans even chanted his name, reminiscing back to the days when his father regularly led the Knicks into the playoffs.
Make no mistake. This emotional outpour is significant given that fans witnessed an abysmal 23-59 season last year, haven’t enjoyed a winning season since 2000-2001, and had to endure an embarrassing Isiah Thomas scandal.
All in all, the decision brings an interesting question to light: How big a role should PR play in sports management decisions?
My immediate thought is “not much” given that weighing PR heavily doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of pure competition, but for a struggling organization like the Knicks, why not give something back to the fans? Jerome James’ 2008-2009 prospects are shaky at best, and Ewing Jr. showed promise in the little time he was afforded this pre-season.
Clearly PR and sports have become more closely aligned as team payrolls and revenues skyrocket. David Beckham’s gargantuan $250 million contract with LA Galaxy – more than 50 times the league average – is evidence enough.
Hopefully, for the sake of Knicks fans, team management looks a little more closely at the PR implications of its decisions in the future.