NBA franchises are in a bind during the lockout. They still need to do a bit of marketing work to sell tickets and engage fans, but they also can't use the players -- you know, the people the fans actually pay to see -- in any marketing efforts. As such, teams need to get creative, often in unexpected ways.
The Portland Trail Blazers have realized this problem and taken it upon themselves to hire a former player as an ambassador to the community at large. Somewhat oddly, though, they've hired someone almost certain to divide their fan base. From the team's press release (via Blazersedge):
In 2007, along with the launch of the make it better community program, the Trail Blazers announced the formation of the Trail Blazers Community Ambassador Corps featuring beloved founder, Harry Glickman; one of the team's original Trail Blazers, Dale Schlueter; J. Walter Kennedy Award winner Chris Dudley, and teammates from the unforgettable teams of the '80s AND early '90s, Jerome Kersey and Kevin Duckworth. ... The Alumni Ambassadors have become an integral part of the team's work in the community, bridging our past to our present and unifying all generations of Trail Blazers in our efforts to make it better.
This position is almost entirely a matter of marketing -- it's not as if Dudley and his cohorts are going to go on diplomatic missions to France to advance the cause of the Blazers abroad. They exist to make public appearances and maybe sell a few tickets.
However, that makes the selection of Dudley even more curious. Best known as a player for being very tall and comically bad at shooting free throws, Dudley most recently found himself in the midst of Oregon politics during an unsuccessful, yet fairly impressive run for governor on the Republican ticket. While Dudley proved that he's a serious person, his pro-business, vaguely Tea Party-ish agenda during the campaign almost certainly alienated a sizable portion of the Blazers' fan base. Maybe he's not allowed to visit liberal hotbeds like Eugene and Portland. No home games for you, Chris!
On top of his controversial political profile, Dudley also once served as executive treasurer of the players' union during his NBA career. While his union ties have probably been superseded by his political beliefs (like, um, that unions shouldn't have much power), it does seem a little awkward that a former officer would decide to fill a role that only really exists because the NBA has negated the existence of its players during the lockout.
The Blazers are free to choose who they want to serve as ambassador, but Dudley seems like a needlessly messy choice for the role. Then again, I suppose he's a better choice than Qyntel Woods or Erick Barkley. That has to be worth something.
- Portland Trail Blazers