The Sixers unveiled their new black City Edition jerseys on Tuesday, and while opinions were divided on the design (47 percent of Liberty Ballers readers voted they liked it), the naysayers have been particularly outspoken. Now, it’s a one-off alternate jersey design, so even for the people who didn’t like it, it’s not an issue anybody actually cares about. The team will don it a handful of times during the season, the numbers on the scoreboard will matter 100 times more than whatever the players are wearing, and we’ll all move on with our lives.
However, after Uni Watch gave the uniforms a bad review, Sixers Team President Chris Heck reached out and the two parties conducted an interview which dropped today on Uni Watch. Previously, the casual Philadelphia sports fan might have only known Heck as the guy who represented the Sixers at the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery. Well...that has certainly changed after today.
The interview starts with Heck basically saying he hated the Iverson-era black jerseys, they’re not happening on his watch, and he only reluctantly agreed to do any sort of black uniforms, calling them “the ultimate cheap win.” All of which is, fine, I guess? I mean, there appears to be a strong contingent of people who would really love to see Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, etc. in 2000-01-style uniforms, and would buy up plenty of said merchandise. You’re not some gatekeeper for the fashion industry. I would say take the easy win and give people what they want, but whatever.
Here’s the section that really made the news today though:
Uni Watch: I just want to explain, when I wrote, “It’s hoity-toity, it’s fancy-shmancy,” I didn’t mean that as a criticism per se — I was just making fun of the fact that everyone always says Philadelphia is blue collar, it’s gritty, the Flyers’ mascot is called Gritty, and all that. So I was just making fun of that contrast. But I don’t have a specific problem with Boathouse Row.
Chris Heck: The whole blue collar thing is meant to be positive — I hear it all the time too. We actually don’t use the term “Philly,” because we think it’s lazy and undersells the city, and sometimes I think “blue collar” does the same thing. We refer to it as “New Philadelphia.” Blue collar’s important for the city, but it’s not the only component. New Philadelphia is about the arts, it’s about culture, it’s about education, it’s about diversity. We like that narrative more than the blue collar hockey thing. Which isn’t a slight on it, but we think we’re more than blue collar.
Chris, man, what are you doing? Philly is how people refer to this city.
Where are you from? Philly.
Where do you live? Philly.
No one has ever referred to this city as “New Philadelphia,” “Phila,” or whatever other terms you appear to have thrown in your marketing brainstorming sessions. The Eagles quarterback said, “You want Philly Philly?” in the Super Bowl two years ago and now there’s a statue! Saying it’s lazy to use the term Philly is so incredibly tone-deaf about the fan base you’re trying to appeal to that it reads like a parody someone here might have written to make fun of the front office during the Burnergate days.
The whole thing is such an epic own goal that I can’t believe it came from someone involved in marketing in any capacity. All Heck had to do was ignore any negative criticisms, which would have vanished in the next 24-hour news cycle anyway, and say they were happy with what they came up with and the ability to highlight a less-discussed landmark in the city. That’s it! This isn’t hard! Instead, he comes off as some out-of-touch elitist and pissed off anyone here who considers themselves blue collar.
Daryl Morey, work your magic next week. I need “Sixers executive does something smart” vibes back into my life.
Update: Heck issued the following statement this afternoon via Twitter:
I’m sorry for my comments to UniWatch. Clearly, I missed the mark. My intention was to highlight the incredible things happening here & showcase the pride we have for Philadelphia. I love this city and truly believe we have the best fans in sports. No other place comes close.— Chris Heck (@chrisheck76) November 12, 2020