NBA Should Police Songs Being Played In Arenas In Lieu Of Being Hip

By Gregory Moore
Updated: March 9, 2005

Many NBA arenas are playing 50 Cents’ “Candy Shop” with the lyrics. Is this song appropriate for teams to be playing as part of their song rotatation?

SAN ANTONIO — I was shocked when I heard the San Antonio Spurs audio engineers play 50 cents’ “Candy Shop” over the public address system after a play for the home team. While I’m not opposed to the NBA trying to capture the Urban market or trying to stay hip with the latest songs for their young fans, I do think it is imperative that the league do it’s homework and realize that certain songs are just not appropriate no matter how catchy the track or how popular the song. While there are some songs that are borderline, when it comes to the rap genre, there are some songs that are quite explicit in their lyrics; even when they are ‘cleaned up’ for radio play. “Candy Shop” is one of those songs that not only fits what I just described but is also a song that should never be played in the public arena of a sports event.

In case you have never heard of the song, let me display just the first chorus for you. The chorus with 50 cents rapping says: I take you to the candy shop I’ll let you lick the lollypop Go ‘head girl, don’t you stop Keep going ’til you hit the spot (whoa) Now on the surface that song seems harmless doesn’t it? But do you know what he is referencing in this song? Oral sex. Yes that is what this song is all about and the above lyric is what was played Sunday night after the Spurs’ had scored. By themselves, this wouldn’t even hit the radar of sports topics but because the song was played at what I consider an inappropriate time and manner, it is the perfect piece of kindling for a topic that nobody has talked about in quite some time; is the NBA trying to hard to reach out to the Urban culture?

For at least the past five years or so, the NBA has been trying very hard to reach out to an audience that is a little more hip than the corporate fat cats. Add to the flavor of this hip/hop equation the fact that you now have Usher, Nelly and Jay-Z as minority owners in three of the more hotter NBA franchises and you can understand why the league wants to push it’s marketing plan towards the urban culture. You can’t blame David Stern and the marketing folks in New York for going this route. The Urban culture spends some $1.5 billion in expendable income on everything from clothes to the latest gadgets like an iPod. They spend money on clothing brands such as Ecko, Sean Jean, South Pole and Phat Farm. Yet they also spend money buying the gear from sports leagues like the NBA. Look around the hip-hop scene and you will see jerseys from every team being worn and also you will see how it is accessorized.

That’s a big segment of the population and it is no wonder that Stern and other sports league commissioners want to tap into that market. Yet with that decision does come some inherent side effects. The Urban culture, while as eclectic and vibrant it can be on one hand, it is also very much a down to the ground, sometimes vile segment of our society. The statement that I used last year in a web cast for Clear Channel during the Malice at the Palace controversy was “you cannot embrace the good of hip-hop without acknowledging the negativity of that genre as well”. It is that very statement that seems to bode well for the topic we are discussing now because you cannot use the good songs from this genre without knowing what bad songs are out there. “Candy Shop” is a ‘bad’ song for the intentions that you want to play the song.

Does the league owe the paying public an explanation for why it is playing these types of songs? Sure it does. For the most part this isn’t even a public relations nightmare but I am raising a red flag to the potential problem so that Commissioner Stern and the public relations arm get a grasp of this a little early before it gets out of hand. I’m not asking for censorship but just a little common sense by the sound engineers when they select songs. Even a small snippet of a lyric like that can send a wrong message to a young audience.