Chances are if you caught last night’s Game 7 of the NBA finals, you also saw a couple of very questionable commercials. The game that had the Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Boston Celtics was the highest rated NBA finals match in over a decade, and showed how much – and how little – big time advertising on matters of race has changed in recent years.
The first was an American Express ad featuring Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada. Depending on where you fall along the spectrum of education reform, Canada’s either lauded or somewhat reviled. His program aims to transform Harlem by nurturing parents and students from the cradle to college. In the book “Whatever It Takes”, author Paul Tough details how Canada’s corporate approach to education has been criticized by some longtime reformists.
The second commercial to raise a few eyebrows involved hamsters and hip-hop. Kia Motors, advertising its line of Soul sedans, featured a group of rodents decked out in Timberland boots, hoodies, and gold chains rapping to the classic “This or That” track by Black Sheep. One person wrote on Facebook, “Are those….hoodrats?”