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The Nets build their image with a smartphone donation, but have a "Kremlin-esque wall" around more dubious practices

One thing Matt Sullivan's new book, Can't Knock The Hustle, reminds us of, is how the Brooklyn Nets managed to build their image--for example, helping spread the myth that Jay-Z designed the logo--via smoke and mirrors.

In another recent interview, as shown in the clip below, the Nets also don't share some more dubious practices, part of letting superstars like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have their way.

"There's a lot of things that the Nets do that aren't kosher," Sullivan says. "There's a reason they have this kind of Kremlin-esque wall around everything they do. During the middle of Covid, they were working out half the team—well, really Kyrie, KD, and their friends on the team, out in Kobe's [Bryant] old gym in California. You weren't allowed to do that during Covid, you had to have all these strict protocols..."

"But they were running like a secret camp the whole time, trying to get KD and Kyrie in shape and, from what I understand from what some people told me, is also articulating who they wanted on this team," Sullivan says, " kind of puppeteering watching some of these young guns in in the bubble, basically letting them lose and figuring out who they wanted to keep on the super team."

"You know, all the while Kyrie's painting and saging and tweeting--or Instagram-posting manifestos about you know Black Lives Matter and why he doesn't believe in that mainstream movement from his car outside of Kobe's gym before he goes," Sullivan continues, "and does the secret runs with what would become the super team, including James Harden. Who ended up in that gym too while they formed this team on Election Day."

Harden, as we know, engineered his exit from the Houston Rockets to join his favored team, the Nets, during the last season.

Getting the right publicity

It's certainly a good thing to provide nearly 50 students with a new Motorola phone and a two-year prepaid unlimited Verizon data plan, plus a $150 voucher in the Nets' retail store, but it's also very much an example of "earned media," with the publicity value surely calculated as worth the expense.

The Nets here are mostly the catalyst, because their sponsorship deal with Motorola, worth north of $8 million, and announced 12/10/20, included a promise that of "the donation of Motorola smartphones to support virtual learning for homeless students, who account for more than 100,000 of the students in the New York City Public School system."

In other words, Motorola (and Verizon?) mostly paid, while the Nets offered a point person, former NBA player Albert King, a place for the ceremony, and a press release. Did the Nets pay for the retail voucher or did that come out of Motorola's sponsorship check?

As I wrote in March 2013, community and charity events from the Nets and the Barclays Center are like "posing for holy cards," as a former food industry executive put it, regarding his company's sponsorship efforts. The civic value serves as a distraction from more less flattering issues.

Yes, there was coverage, and it stressed the Nets as donor:
Nor did the coverage mention that the donation was part of a previously announced sponsorship deal.

The press release

Nearly 50 students receive Motorola moto x4 with two-year prepaid unlimited Verizon data plan

BROOKLYN – The Brooklyn Nets, in partnership with Motorola and Verizon, surprised graduating high school seniors currently in New York City temporary housing with free, prepaid smartphones. Motorola, the official mobile handset partner of the Brooklyn Nets, provided the students with new moto x4 smartphones, and Verizon, the official 5G partner of the Nets and Barclays Center, is covering the cost of an unlimited data plan for two years.

Nearly 50 students received phones with a portion going to graduating seniors from S.I.M.B.A. and A.S.E.T., two Department of Education programs geared toward helping New York City high school students living in temporary housing. Both S.I.M.B.A. – an acronym for “Safe In My Brother’s Arms” – and A.S.E.T. – which stands for “All Sisters Evolving Together” – support students with their studies and provide resources to help them attend college or find a career. Together, these groups have served more than 1,500 students, and 100% of their current class of seniors are graduating high school with offers to attend college.

The S.I.M.B.A. and A.S.E.T. students were surprised with the smartphones while attending a private tour of Barclays Center with Nets Legend Albert King. The students also received a $150 voucher to redeem in the Nets’ new retail store, Brooklyn Style.

“It’s been a joy supporting the success of the students in S.I.M.B.A. and A.S.E.T.,” said Christopher Moncrief, S.I.M.B.A/A.S.E.T. Program Coordinator. “Watching them as they advance through high school is an enlightening journey and I am always amazed at how they navigate handling their studies, caring for younger siblings and other tasks, while dealing with the impact of homelessness.”

“When establishing our partnership with Motorola, we made a commitment to provide technology access to New York City’s most underserved student population,” said Mandy Gutmann, Senior Vice President of Community Relations and Communications, BSE Global. “With this phone donation, we are ensuring that students from temporary housing can begin on equal footing with their peers as they pursue higher education or their careers. Thank you to our partner, Verizon, for providing the plans needed so that these young adults can be more focused on their studies, rather than their bills.”

“With the dramatic increase in online and remote learning over the past year, we jumped at the chance to partner with the Nets and Verizon to help with S.I.M.B.A. and A.S.E.T’s efforts to support students in New York City temporary housing upon graduating high school,” said Rudi Kalil, VP and general manager, North America at Motorola. “At Motorola, we’re driven to move the industry forward and are thrilled to bring our smart innovations to these students to help transform the way they learn, discover, share and connect.”

There were more than 111,000 homeless students attending district and charter schools in New York City during the 2019-20 school year, and S.I.M.B.A. and A.S.E.T. offer academic resources, extracurricular activities and college- and career-readiness training to assist these students who historically have been at greater academic risk.

“This past year has shown everyone how important connection is,” said Yvette Martinez-Rea, Vice President of Sponsorships and Partnerships for Verizon. “We’re proud to partner with the Brooklyn Nets and Motorola on this initiative to provide service for these young men and women to keep them connected as they begin their college studies.”

To view/download broll and images of the tour and surprise, including interviews with King and S.I.M.B.A. and A.S.E.T. program coordinator, Wayne Harris, click here.
On Twitter (last December)

If only this were true.