Tuesday was likely Dwyane Wade‘s final home game for the Miami Heat.
The veteran guard is retiring after this season, and thus the fans at American Airlines Arena will never see him don a Heat uniform in South Florida again.
Wade has been on a farewell tour the entire season, exchanging jerseys with players on opposing teams at the conclusion of each game. Emotions are running high as the year comes to a close with the Heat about to miss the postseason.
On Tuesday, ahead of Wade’s final game in Miami, two videos were released as tribute to his Hall of Fame career. Unfortunately, and oddly, both were advertisements.
In the first — widely disseminated Tuesday morning — Wade is shown speaking to people who have been affected by his charitable work. They include, among others, his mother, a benefactor of a scholarship, and the relative of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victim.
This video, which uses the plight and genuine generosity experienced between Wade and his community, exists to sell Budweiser. And because of that, it’s an odd, emotionally complicated piece of media.
On one hand, there’s the genuine emotional response these people had while talking to Wade about how he affected their lives. Seeing a visual impact of charity in this manner is no doubt powerful, even if you already understood the extent of Wade’s communal giving already.
But as these moments happened between Wade and his constituents, there is also a big blaring BUDWEISER sign in the background. It’s distracting, off-putting, and a reminder of the weird capitalist no man’s land that exists as a separation of the public from the human beings that are sports figures. Every player is, in fact, a brand, and this ad makes that abundantly clear.
Perhaps less egregious was the special video involving Wade’s son Zaire. Played before the game, Zaire goes through a remaking of one of Wade’s famous commercials from earlier in his dad’s career.
This is the NBA, and this is the job of players. The idea of brands and sponsors being pertinent at every step of the way isn’t groundbreaking.
But for every mustachioed, orange beanie-capped, clear-rimmed glasses-wearing marketing goober calling themselves a “storyteller” — and there are plenty where I live here in Portland — there’s a constant blurring of the line between what’s acceptable to use in selling a product.
No doubt all these folks were willing participants in the ad, and grateful for Wade’s acts, but something doesn’t sit right with it being out in front of everyone for the purpose of selling… Budweiser. We’re meant to conflate the idea of Wade’s charity having anything to do with drinking a certain label of alcohol, and that’s just factually not relevant.
It’s gross, frankly. It’s not tear-jerking, even if we do have a greater respect for how Wade has changed the lives of those folks and by implication, many more. Wade’s career ending is a momentous occasion, and we can enjoy it separate of corporate sponsorship.