The A-game.

“I wrote an e-mail two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive. I trivialized our fans by making clichéd assumptions about their interests (i.e., hip hop vs. country, white vs. black cheerleaders, etc.) and by stereotyping their perceptions of one another (i.e., that white fans might be afraid of our black fans). By focusing on race, I also sent the unintentional and hurtful message that our white fans are more valuable than our black fans.”Bruce Levenson

The poor attendance found at Atlanta Hawks basketball games makes a great deal of sense after reading controlling owner Bruce Levenson’s letter decrying the team’s inability to convince corporations and white men aged 33-55 to buy season tickets. Levenson’s own bigotry, his dismissive attitude toward African Americans, led to inadequate marketing tactics—which then led to poor ticket sales.

Atlanta is a black city. Black people make up 54 percent of the population as of the 2010 census. To target your marketing to middle-aged white men in a city that is majority black is woefully inept. And if your product can be enjoyed by all nearby residents? Racist. Levenson erroneously targeted white residents due to the belief that black residents do not possess the disposable income required to purchase tickets and other Hawks-related material. His beliefs were off base. Atlanta is home to a large number of affluent and famous African Americans—Americans Levenson should have been targeting instead.

Atlanta is the home of black celebrity, and celebrity sells tickets. The Knicks, currently excelling only in their ability to be mediocre, routinely play to packed houses. Knicks ticket prices are astronomical. Why? Because celebrities attend on a regular basis and the stadium is safely nestled within the city’s largest tourist trap. The rule of celebrity remains even when the coasts change. When the performance of the Los Angeles Lakers slips in quality, fans still attend Lakers games to see and be seen. A Lakers home game is an event—fashion show, networking conference, photo opportunity, and speed-dating service in one.

Hawks home games must be events in the same manner. If black celebrities routinely attended Hawks games, and pictures of their attendance were disseminated on various gossip blogs, fans—of all races—would follow. And ticket sales would increase. Perhaps it is even worth the investment to pay Atlanta-based celebrities to appear initially—real celebrities, not reality stars. The third Captain America movie will be filming in the city soon. Footage of Anthony Mackie and Chris Evans appearing regularly at Hawks games would do more for ticket sales than a Hawks winning streak.

Finally, celebrity must not only be found in the stands, but on the court as well. Sadly, we are no longer in an era where simple skill is enough. Americans want quality hoops, yes, but they also want showmen. LeBron and Kobe are more than players; they are personalities. The Hawks need a player that fascinates fans off the court as well as on—a charmer worthy of “Black Hollywood.”

All eyes are on the Hawks now due to Levenson’s antics. Perhaps a new owner with a vision unclouded by racism will be able to see the potential in the Hawks and craft the quality franchise Atlanta’s residents deserve.


ECCC: Comic convention contemplation.

The Washington State Convention Center is an exceptional place to host a convention—airy with ample space and fantastic lighting. Plus, there are restaurants, hotels, tourist traps, drugstores and department stores all within a short radius. It’s what sets Emerald City Comicon apart from its larger competitors. NYCC and SDCC have been unpleasant experiences for me due to terrible locations that provide no respite from the overwhelming convention crowds unless I’m willing to travel long distances from the convention. At Emerald City, one is able to pop across the street and eat at a cozy restaurant or take a nap in one’s hotel room. There’s no escape from the Javits Center without walking at least a dozen very long Manhattan blocks. As for San Diego? Good luck finding anything affordable.

And good luck finding anything affordable at the closest contender to claim the title of ECCC East—Dragon Con. Not only are ticket prices ridiculously expensive compared to other conventions, the nearby hotels charge exorbitant prices designed to gouge attendees. Rates often double those found at Emerald City. And while the location is perfect—countless amenities are only a block or two away—the comics industry is treated as a mere afterthought. Film, television, and prose reign supreme.

Comics come first at Heroes, but the convention’s location is horrifically dull. While Seattle, San Diego, New York City, and Atlanta offer an amazing array of activities apart from their conventions, Charlotte offers little in the way of excitement.

Given that Emerald City is quite a trek for me, I’ve been thinking about how best to recreate the magic of the convention closer to home. I’m sure many convention organizers looking for a lucrative investment are too. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

The Location: Atlanta, Georgia. Specifically? The Atlanta Convention Center. However, a set-up similar to Dragon Con where a few smaller hotels share space would also work well.

The Date: Like Emerald City, the event should be scheduled during “Spring Break.” Weather in Atlanta during that time is exceptional, and a late March or early April date would provide a great kick-off to the convention season for those tired of winter weather. Plus, being such a great distance from Emerald City would allow it to occur at a similar time without “poaching” guests from that convention. Those who would attend “Peachtree City Comicon” would likely never consider Emerald City due to the distance involved. And Megacon, currently showing signs of weakness, could easily be cannibalized.

Key Factors: If one is going to host a comic convention in Atlanta, three organizations/events should be involved or showcased in some manner. The first is Cartoon Network/Adult Swim. The second is the Atlanta branch of the Savannah College of Art and Design. The third is the ComicsPRO annual membership meeting. Also, making a deal with hotels in order to keep rates in the range of $100.00 to $150.00 a night is essential. Expensive hotels hurt attendance.

I’m sure the last thing Jim Demonakos and his crew want is to launch yet another large convention, but they have shown that they can succeed where many others have failed. Plus, there is a clear “convention vacuum” here on the East Coast that no one has been adequately able to fill. I’d like to see someone fill it—and I’m willing to put my money and muscle where my mouth is to make it happen.