Recently the Indianapolis Business Journal had a big article about the Pacers. They follow it up in this week's issue with the following editorial.
February 4, 2008
Indianapolis Business Journal (IN)
Pacers' troubles bad for city, too
Taxpayers shouldn't bail team out
Four months ago, before the start of the NBA season, we urged fans and the corporate community to continue their support of the Indiana Pacers despite a string of off-the-court problems and on-the-court mediocrity. It was a difficult request then and an even tougher one today.
The Pacers are mired in a losing streak near the season's midpoint. Top player Jermaine O'Neal could be out for the rest of the year with an injury, and the team's odds of landing a playoff spot appear to be dimming.
More unfortunately, they still aren't a lovable bunch. Pacers management has yet to clear out players who have a fondness for illegal substances or a tendency to get into gunfights at 3 in the morning.
In response, the marketplace is speaking loud and clear: Keep putting a losing team and players of questionable character on the court and we won't come. Attendance is down 22 percent from last year and has plunged to last in the league. NBA officials are expressing concern.
If Internet blogs are a good indication, fans are fed up. "Thugs, drug dealers and whining babies," said one of many respondents to a recent item about the Pacers posted on IBJ's new sports business blog, The Score. That remark summed up the majority of opinions on IBJ's blog and several other sites that follow the team.
The sad truth is that Pacers management, through poor personnel moves and its tolerance of bad behavior, has put the franchise in a hole that could be impossible to escape in the short term. We hope the empty seats finally send a message to owners Mel and Herb Simon that major steps need to be taken.
Those steps, however, shouldn't involve asking the city for a better lease deal for Conseco Fieldhouse. The Pacers organization already has a favorable arrangement with the city and shouldn't expect a bailout.
Some sports marketing experts think such a request is inevitable, but there's no evidence it's happened yet. To its credit, the franchise says it hasn't asked for anything. That's as it should be. The Simon brothers, two of the richest men in the world, have built a reputation for civic and charitable support. Asking taxpayers to rescue their business from a few million dollars in losses would only harm their positive legacy.
As we've said before, Indianapolis doesn't benefit from a struggling Pacers organization. The team is a valuable asset with an important history. For multiple reasons, ranging from economic to psychological, the city is better off when the Pacers thrive.
While understanding the reluctance, we still urge the corporate community and fans to support the organization the best they can.
In return, we ask the Pacers organization to send a signal that it really is intent on turning things around. Because if that's the plan, the message hasn't been getting through.
This is kind of a big deal.
The IBJ hits the Simons right where they live. They probably don't spend much time on Pacers digest, but it is likely they know and care what the IBJ is saying.
The editorial says the Pacers' organization isn't doing enough at the top level to win back fans: "Don't blame the players. Don't blame the coach. The front office and the owners need to act, and they need to be seen in action."