Andrew Bynum hasn’t played a game for the Sixers. It’s possible he won’t ever appear on the court for them. Because of that, some fans and media members have accused the Sixers of misleading people -- and perhaps even knowingly withholding information -- about Bynum’s situation in order to sell tickets and merchandise.
On Monday, in an interview with Comcast SportsNet, Aron denied that was the case.
“The notion that we’ve been hiding his condition, it’s all revisionist history,” Aron said. “When the trade was made, we all expected him to play. As the season unfolded, we expected him to come back. Even three weeks ago, Andrew himself was saying that he’d be playing after the All-Star break. It clearly hasn’t happened. It hasn’t been good for the team. It hasn’t been good for ticket sales. It hasn’t been good for the fan base. Nobody is happy about this. Andrew himself is frustrated that he hasn’t been able to show off his stuff for the fans of Philadelphia. But you play the hand you’re dealt, and this year we have to play the hand of Andrew Bynum’s injured knees.”
Critics and skeptics have pointed to the fact that the Sixers have used Bynum’s likeness in advertisements promoting the team. As you head south on I-95, there’s an electronic billboard near Lincoln Financial Field with a picture of Bynum and a message that single-game tickets are still available. Aron acknowledged that the billboard exists but insisted that it’s an unfortunate error.
“The billboard that you just described was a mistake by the billboard company that picked up some art from months ago,” Aron said. “We would have to be really stupid to intentionally put up a billboard right now that says ‘single-game tickets on sale’ with Andrew Bynum’s face on that billboard.”
The company handling the Sixers' billboard account confirmed Aron's comment, saying that it made an unintentional error by placing Bynum's image on the advertisement.
Aron’s explanation aside, some fans did buy tickets and Bynum jerseys under the assumption -- the same one that Aron mentioned above -- that the center would play at some point this season. That obviously hasn’t happened. Did the people who invested their money to attend Sixers games or purchase merchandise get a raw deal?
“I think we’ve all gotten a raw deal -- everybody connected with the 76ers this year because the Philadelphia 76ers are 23-35 as we sit here recording this interview,” Aron replied. “Back in the summer, we were being told that we pulled off the best trade that Philadelphia sports has seen in decades. ... People were euphoric that we brought a superstar to Philadelphia.
“Going back to the notion about our transparency with our fans, we’ve made Andrew Bynum available to the media just about every week now for two, three months. He’s done a lot of talking, but, unfortunately, what people don’t really want to see is talk. What they want to see is him in a Sixers uniform with No. 33 on the back, on the floor in the middle of a game playing as well as Andrew Bynum has traditionally played. And until that happens, the frustration is going to be high.”
In August, shortly after the trade was consummated, the Sixers held a public press conference at the National Constitution Center to introduce Bynum and Jason Richardson to Philadelphia. Since then, detractors have referenced the event as an example of everything that’s been wrong with this season -- a pomp and pageantry affair that trumpeted a player who still hasn’t played.
“It is so ludicrous to think that press conference was a mistake,” Aron responded. “That press conference –- this was the one at the National Constitution Center where we invited the fans to come and we introduced Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson to the city -- there was a reason why 1,500 fans showed up at the National Constitution Center. It’s because it was perceived at the time, based on what we all knew -– what the fans knew, what the team knew –- that we had just pulled off one of the most important trades in Philadelphia 76ers franchise history. The enthusiasm that was shown that day wasn’t just shown at the National Constitution Center. It was shown in all the press commentary about what kind of a season the Sixers were expected to have. But he hasn’t played a minute. There’s nothing wrong with the press conference. The problem is with his knees.”
Aron and the Sixers have gotten a lot of feedback about those and other problems this year via social media. At times, Aron has, strangely, appeared to court criticism on Twitter. Has his handling of the team from a PR perspective damaged the Sixers’ image?
“We promised the fans on the day we bought the team that we would be communicating with our fans, engaging with our fans, listening to our fans,” Aron said. “We will do that in good times. We will do that in bad times. Will fans be happier when we’re 35-23 than when we’re 23-35? Of course they will.
“Some of the criticisms that I hear are very well-founded, actually. There is a lot of great insight in our fan base. They spend a lot of man hours. I used to describe our fans as hundreds of thousands, if not millions of management consultants, all willing to share their advice with me, free, as to what we should do better and differently. Now, some of the commentary is not as good as others, but what our fans want is a winning team.”
Sixers CEO Adam Aron also had this to say about Andrew Bynum's latest setback.