Cleveland Cavaliers “Watergate” may be dumbest business/PR move ever; I’m calling bullshit

Update 2/10/10: Cavs will restore water fountains, saying H1N1 threat has passed. Oh, yeah. Policy also violates state building code. Doh! Maybe they can use water from fountains to wash egg from faces. Did I call this? Huh? See last paragraph.


You may have heard by now that the Cleveland Cavaliers have turned off the drinking water at the Q. That’s right, if you attend a Cavalier’s game you won’t find a water fountain anywhere. Team management has ordered them removed.

According to this piece from the Plain Dealer, the Cavs’ maternal instincts kicked in, so team management has pulled the drinking fountains to save us all from H1N1 and other furry boogers that might make us really sick. Thanks, Mom!

That what he said. Cavs’ PR man Tad Carper, quoted in the PD, said his team gets its health-related advice from the NBA and the International Association of Assembly Mangers. So I guess we shouldn’t blame the team for this policy, right?


Turns out, the NBA and the IAAM have issued no recommendations about drinking fountains in arenas. PD reporter Gabriel Baird — being a realworld journalist and all — actually called to verify this fact — or non-fact, as it were. He also learned that no other NBA arena has shut off the water.

Yeah, I know. This one’s starting to stink.

Need water at a game? No problem. You may 1) purchase bottled water for $4, or 2) ask the concession stand for a complimentary 9-oz. cup. To put that size in perspective, my urologist uses 9-oz sample cups.  No kidding. I was there last week!

So whom do we believe? Is closure of the drinking fountains really a benevolent gesture by a team management? Or is it just another way for a big sports franchise to pad concession revenues?

Even if the policy was well-intentioned — and I’m having trouble swallowing that — it’s being perceived and portrayed as pure corporate greed. And yep, I’m doin’ my part to stir up discussion! It’s what I do.

I don’t pay much attention to the NBA, or basketball in general. I do watch Cavs games on TV just to see the super-human work of LeBron James. But I’ve never been to a Cavs game at the Q and have no plans to get there anytime soon.

And I have my reasons. You see, I drink a whole lot of water, and I’m not about to pay $4 a bottle when I have this perfectly good tap. And at and my age, I hit the bathroom a lot. Just ask my urologist.

Wait a minute. If the Cavs really cared about diseases transmitted in the arena, they’d close the public crappers. They’re a whole lot more germ-invested than the water fountains.

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P.S. I’m scrambling to get this post up before Cavs owner Dan Gilbert orders the drinking fountains reinstalled. If he doesn’t do that by the end of the week — well — I’ve already called bullshit. What more can I do?

11 Responses to Cleveland Cavaliers “Watergate” may be dumbest business/PR move ever; I’m calling bullshit

  1. Interesting move on the Cavs part. This is the first I’ve heard of it, but it’s not exactly the type of news that makes an ESPN highlight reel — which is probably what Gilbert & friends are hoping.

    Being the only successful CLE sports franchise of recent years, the Cavs organization has so much Goodwill built up amongst its fan base that I’m not sure this will hurt them that badly. It’ll be interesting to see how they react to being called out in the PD tho.

    I’ll stay tuned for an update!

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  3. Bill Sledzik says:

    Ah, you are such a pragmatist. You didn’t get that from me. But you’re spot on. Cavs’ goodwill is immense, and likely enough to overcome even a really dumbass move like this one. But goodwill in professional sports is fleeting. Just ask the Indians about that.

    On another level, this policy seems to violate rules of fair play on at least two levels. Strike One: The Q is an arena paid for by taxpayers — including those water fountains they can no longer use. Strike Two: Bottled water, as we’re becoming aware, is a curse on the environment with a carbon footprint the size of Alaska. Strike Three? That comes if this policy is allowed to stand. And I’m betting it won’t.

  4. Marc Vincent says:

    The players on the court have the goodwill. I’m not so sure that the Cavs management and Dan Gilbert have such a deep well of goodwill. There are still lingering issues out there in the minds of some Clevelanders — sports fans and non-sports fans alike. Just a few off the top of my head: (1) The firing of Michael Reghi as play-by-play man in favor of a more rah-rah kind of broadcaster, (2) fans who hate the in-game experience like the Scream Team and (3) hard feelings from anti-gambling types related to Dan Gilbert’s role in the most recent casino gambling vote.

  5. Blair Boone says:

    Building paid for and, I assume, still owned by the taxpayers. Yet a private organization can rip out essential services. What’s to stop the Cavs from putting pay toilets in there? Four bucks for a bottle of water followed by four bucks to send it down the drain?

    People worry about socialism in health care, then they give tax money to billionaire owners and multimillionaire athletes, essentially socializing a private company that produces no goods or services and in fact treats taxpayers like serfs.

    I’ll merely note the further irony that Cleveland’s northern boundary is one-fifth of the world’s surface fresh water.

    • Bill Sledzik says:

      The $500-million Gateway complex (Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena) was financed by a countywide “sin” tax. So the smokers and the boozers are paying the bill over the next umpteen years. And don’t ask a smoker how he/she feels about not being able to light up anywhere on the property. If you do, stand back!

      You can make a utilitarian defense for public financing of sports venues, since the teams do bring a significant economic impact to cities where they reside and play. Not saying I buy the argument, but you can make it.

      But as you say, these are PUBLIC venues paid for by taxpayers. That should mean certain necessities of life are available free. You know, like a drink of water and place to go pee.

      Someday, when the Cavs suck again (and they will), I’m hoping folks harbor a little of their resentment — and stay home.

      • Blair Boone says:

        What are the chances of the state levying the maximum daily fine until the fountains are restored? Probably about as good as me dunking over Lebron. If you or I violate the building code or the speed limit or anything else, we don’t skate — we pay the penalty. But there are different rules for tax-supported billionaires and athletes. Once again, where’s the outcry about socialism when tax money goes to support this particular private enterprise? Where’s the outcry demanding they pay for violating the law? Not simply correct the problem, but pay? If they don’t pay a fine, that’s one more public subsidy. That’s socialism, with taxpayers assuming large parts of the risks and operating expenses and owners and players reaping obscene profits.

        I don’t really have an ax to grind here. Just intrigued that alleged conservatives and the general public aren’t screaming for blood when it comes to professional sports, which is one of the most heavily socialized segments of our economy, even though many of us never benefit at all. Never mind the leagues are either explicitly or implicitly exempt from anti-trust regulation, allowing the leagues to operate as cartels.

        I’m just confused. Why is socialism good when it makes corporations and billionaires and athletes richer?

  6. Much the same as when I went to a concert at RFK Stadium in DC on a positively sweltering August night in the mid 90’s and bottles of water were seven bucks. It’s not in the Constitution, but since we’re mostly made of it, water strikes me as an inalienable right.

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  9. Bill Sledzik says:

    @Blair: I should probably clarify the story for those who don’t check the link. The AP Story, in fact, says the Cavs are “looking into” reinstalling the drinking fountains. As you point out, were you or I cited for such a violation, we wouldn’t be “lookin’ into” nothin’. We’d be calling the damn plumbers.

    Will the Cavs be fined for violation of the building code? Not friggin’ likely. But as a gesture of goodwill, someone in Columbus should order the Cavs to give away bottled water until such time the team “pays back” the fans who’ve been fleeced since the fountains were first blocked back in November?

    We’ve all seen courts order such things for gasoline retailers found guilty of price fixing or price gouging. The true victims probably won’t benefit from the free water, but it would show the taxpayers and the voters that rules are made for everybody, even fat cats from Detroit who can afford to buy basketball teams.

    Most folks reading this are laughing at my naivete, but we’re right on this.

    Thanks for allowing me to continue your fine rant. I’ll never be as good at it as you are, though.

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