Sports leagues won’t say much about NBA and DHS ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ campaign

Jeff Winkler Contributor
Font Size:

The Department of Homeland Security and the National Basketball Association are joining forces to heighten public awareness of suspicious activity. And as incongruous as it may seem, they’re a perfect match: an American dream team, actually.

Imagine Scottie Pippen carrying a flu-ridden Michael Jordan on their march toward the 1997 NBA Championship. Except this time it’s for America. And this time, “Air Jordan” is code for “aerial drone.” (Scottie Pippin will always just be “Scottie Pippin”).

The boutique PSA campaign begins at this weekend’s 2011 NBA All-Star festivities in Los Angeles. Back in Hollywood for the ugly, Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano and NBA Commissioner David Stern held a press conference at the Verizon Center, where the NBA’s Washington Wizards play.

“I am proud to be here with Commissioner Stern to announce our partnership with the NBA on the ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ campaign,” said Napolitano in her customary lilt. “The idea behind the…campaign is simple. It’s asking the American people to be vigilant and to aid local law enforcement.”

Stern came in for the assist — “we’re great admirers of your work” — and said he was looking forward to the “tip off” of the DHS-NBA’s IYSSSS PSA.

“I couldn’t agree more that engaging the American people involves teamwork … and we know something about teamwork at the NBA,” he added. And one!

First launched by the NYC Metro Transit Authority in 2004 as a sort of DIY-response to terrorist threats like 9/11, the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign spread to D.C.’s public transportation system in late 2010. The national campaign has a $2.9 million promotional budget, making some efforts to reach out to retailers and the hotel industry, as well as placing “ad-buys” in New Jersey, Tennessee and Dallas.

In it’s recent attempts to go pro in the sports world, the PSA barely lapped GoDaddy’s Danica Patrick gag-tease as the worst 2011 Super Bowl ad. The DHS’ partnership with the NFL, however, is currently a tedious, potentially one-off event thanks to the labor lockout. It’s in Madden’s Hands now.

So how long will the DHS be “teaming up” with the NBA? Why “sub-in” a public-awareness campaign in the middle of the season? Will the organizations do some “zone defense” against terrorist threats during the 2011-2012 season?

“Our ongoing support of DHS’s public awareness … will continue long after the weekend is over,” Michael Bass, NBA senior vice president of marketing communications, told The Daily Caller. “We have been discussing support and activation in local NBA team markets and are especially targeting strong activation during the NBA Playoffs.”

So wait. “Time out,” as it were. What’s up the DHS involvement? Have there been credible terrorist threats made against sports centers, which might have inspired this partnership? Did Kobe find an IED in his Nikes?

“We’ve already had reports, not against NBA facilities per se, but from the [“If You See Something, Say Something” campaign] that have resulted opening investigations,” said Napolitano at the presser. A day later, TheDC asked a DHS spokesperson if the department was looking into partnerships with other sports leagues. After all, even Michael Jordan played baseball.

“Yes,” said the official. “DHS is in conversation with other professional sports leagues.”

Like the NHL? MLB?

“Again, we’re in conversations with other professional sports leagues,” the spokesperson said.

Can you give TheDC a better idea of what you mean by “conversations”?

The official chuckled.


At least it was an answer. Because contacting professional sports leagues proved to be an even more difficult task.

The only “contact info” on the MLB website is for “customer support.” Hitting zero after hearing the toll-free-number’s automated choices gets you disconnected. Strike one! Deciding that “audio and visual” troubleshooting best fits the touch-tone description of the inquiry, TheDC gets an actual rep on the phone. Five minutes of confused searching yields, “Here’s the only [number] I can think of,” and ends with the eerily automated purr of, “Thank you for calling” Foul ball! Strike two!

TheDC did finally got a hit. Unfortunately, it was MLB’s Bass and he’s a heck of a shortstop. Out at first.

At least Major League Soccer has a customer service line. Too bad “this number is no longer in service.”

The American National Rugby League (It’s AMNRL, BTW, not ANRL — the American Nudist Research Library) has a very minimalist website. Although it’s difficult to imagine why the only two teams in the league went with the names “Not Found” and “HTTP Error 404.”

As for the NHL’s website, you can only send a site-based form message. With a 500 character max, it’s impossible to relay a proper journalistic question. How is anyone supposed to Say Anything after Seeing Something is another question altogether. So TheDC kept it simple. After dejectedly selecting the closest approximate subject line category (“NHL Center Ice – U.S. & Canada only”), TheDC just sent this short message: “Terrorists?”

Back at the DHS/NBA presser and speaking in front of a backdrop patterned with an albino’s silhouette, Napolitano patiently answered questions like a pre-gaming head coach. She said the PSA will be plastered on posters, TV monitors and ribbon boards all around the Los Angeles Convention Center.

“[The campaign is] an important tool that we have to share the responsibility of our own collective security,” said Napolitano, who later added, “Time and time again we see the value of this kind of vigilance.”

So it’s effective?

“One of the things that’s hard to measure is what kind of deterrent effect the campaign itself produces,” answered Napolitano. On the plus side, once the PSA campaign becomes part of “our homeland security architecture,” people will realize that “we all have some responsibility and what is one of the basic things that each individual can do.”

The Phillies GM Chuck Lamar would be proud of that response.

When the 15-min presser ended, the secretary vanished quickly and a few homely “news” reporters hovered near Napolitano’s handler. The others, however, ignored the Secretary and pounced on Stern, cameras and microphones drawn.

They had sporty questions they wanted answered. Something important about football and lockouts. As the cutest one monopolized the friendly inquisition, it was pretty clear Stern’s public appearance was a unique opportunity for these people.

“It’s so rarely we get a chance to talk with you,” said the woman.

Clearly, the sport-centered “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign is off to a running start.

Email Jeff Winkler and follow him on Twitter