The Golden State Warriors want to brand basketball courts at the new Willie Brown Middle School with the team’s logo, raising questions as to whether advertising has a place in San Francisco’s public schools.
The proposal — which would exempt the courts at the Bayview middle school from a long-standing school district policy banning logos, brand names and advertising at school sites — is expected to go before the Board of Education today.
As part of a developing partnership with the middle school, the Warriors plan to resurface the two outdoor basketball courts, add their logo at center court and put up team-branded backboards on the $54 million campus. The school is set to begin its second year next week after a troubled start clouded by high staff turnover and behavioral issues.
The move to place logos at a school in San Francisco’s southeast comes a month after the team defeated lawsuits from opponents who tried to block the construction of a new Warriors arena in Mission Bay, a burgeoning neighborhood adjacent to the Bayview.
“It’s demonstrating the Warriors want to do something more in San Francisco,” said Board of Education President Matt Haney.
While professional basketball is often viewed as a positive inspiration for youths, the question as to whether the Warriors logo should be present at a public school — where students are a sort of captive audience — creates concern for those worried about the oversaturation of advertising in today’s culture.
In 1999, the school board passed the landmark Commercial-Free Schools Act in reaction to a “rising tide of commercialization in public schools,” said Jill Wynns, a longtime school board member who co-authored the resolution.
At the time, students demonstrated for a ban on tobacco paraphernalia in schools and the sale of products from tobacco subsidiaries. When the school board passed the resolution — thereby banning Nabisco products — conservative news outlets blasted the school district for banning Oreos.
But advertising had become so prevalent that even math problems in textbooks were branded, Wynns said.
“The counting things in them were not apples and oranges, they were Reeses Pieces and candy products with the big pictures of them there,” Wynns said.
The district has since in a few instances allowed product advertisement in schools.
In one case soon after the resolution passed, the school board allowed a yogurt company to install vending machines that advertised and sold their product because the food met the district’s nutrition standards, Wynns recalled.
But when Nike donated to the district and asked to place its logo in the center of the Phillip and Sala Burton High School track and field, which opened in 2006, the school board shot down the proposal, according to Wynns.
“You want to recognize the contributions of people whether they’re financial or human, but then we get to the issues about commercialization,” Wynns said, noting that the district has taken to naming schools and facilities after donors, community members and notable people.
Wynns said she plans to request the item be removed from the consent calendar where it would garner no discussion by board members, and instead send the proposal to the board’s Rules, Policy and Legislation Committee.
“We have the description of what they want to do there, which is quite overwhelming,” Wynns said. “It’s not a recognition, it’s the description of advertising.”
Raymond Ridder, the vice president of communications for the Warriors, confirmed that the team plans to unveil a refurbished basketball court at Willie Brown. The Warriors and their partners have renovated 60 basketball courts around the Bay Area in the past two decades, and the addition of logos is not unusual.
“This has been a common practice as part of this program, including at several schools over the years (before this policy was enacted, I’m told),” Ridder said in an email. “We’re obviously happy to abide by whatever decision is made by the Board of Education.”
Josh Golin, the executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, questioned whether the Warriors needed to brand the refurbished courts and said exempting the team from the policy could be a slippery slope.
“Almost everybody in the Bay Area loves the Warriors, but what happens when the next company is coming and they’re offering something … that is harmful to children,” Golin said.