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Volume 27 No. 27
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Life Is Just A Fantasy: Midway's NBA Game Stirs Controversy

"NBA Ballers" Accused Of Stereotyping

Chicago-based video game manufacturer Midway Sports' "NBA Ballers" features the lifestyle of NBA players and allows "wannabe pros [to] 'acquire' women" and "pick up a mansion-sized 'crib,' Cadillacs, gold chains and tattoos," according to Charles Elmore of the PALM BEACH POST, who noted the NFL chose to not renew the license for Midway's "NFL Blitz" game due to its violent content. "NBA Ballers" sold "nearly 300,000 copies in the first two weeks after its April 5 release," and Midway indicated that the game will be one of the top two best-selling NBA-licensed video games ever at its current sales pace. The NBA and Midway said the game includes no sex or violence, and female characters are just "colorful members of an entourage." But Heat F Lamar Odom said, "It's a little too much. Some professionals don't like being stereotyped." Cynthia Rubenstein, a Boca Raton-based advocate for domestic violence victims, added: "With the Kobe Bryant trial and everything else that's going on, we have to question what this is saying to kids." Palm Beach County Urban League President & CEO Patrick Franklin: "If the NBA is truly going to market this product to our youth, then they are definitely sending the wrong message."

FANTASY, NOT REALITY: NBA Senior Dir of Electronic & Interactive Licensing Greg Lassen said, "It is a fantasy game. As far as the items you may see in there, whether they be cars, or hairstyle or tattoos, really that's more of a cultural thing than a basketball thing. I'm not sure that's us perpetuating stereotypes as much as us showing the culture." Lassen added that NBA stars in the game "do not acquire further possessions or friends. ... That is left to fantasy street characters created by the game-player." Midway Sports Product Manager Phil Marineau said, "The NBA helped us craft the whole thing. It's MTV Cribs meets the NBA. It plays up all those whimsical stereotypes you might see" (PALM BEACH POST, 4/25).