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Posted 01 Apr 2001   For week ended March 30, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 29Mar01

By Kent Larsen

Madsen's Mission an Asset in NBA, But Not on the Court

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- It took the media six months once NBA rookie Mark Madsen landed in Los Angeles to discover he had an advantage no one had noticed. Now that advantage means the rookie Madsen gets interviewed frequently after games. A returned missionary who served in Spain, Madsen speaks Spanish fluently, and its LA's Spanish-language media badly need Spanish-speaking players that they can talk to.

The NBA isn't known for connecting with Spanish-speaking fans -- few players are hispanic or speak Spanish, and the league hasn't marketed the game to hispanic audiences very well. "Someone is asleep at the job," says Roberto Gonzalez, a former college player who is trying to popularize the game with hispanic audiences. "If the NBA was smart, they would go after that market." But the league has done little, and only about half the teams that call cities with large hispanic populations home market the game to those audiences.

Madsen says part of the problem has been a lack of players, "I think part of it has to do with the fact that there haven't been many players that speak Spanish in the league, and there hasn't been a huge interest on the part of the players in reaching out, from what I've seen in the past."

But the audience is huge. Spanish-speakers now make up 1/8th of the US population -- about 35 million people. This is giving a lot of incentive to NBA teams to change their ways. And Madsen has noticed that the number of Spanish-speaking players is increasing, " You look at a guy like Eduardo Najera down in Dallas, you look at guys like (Daniel) Santiago up in Phoenix, (Ruben) Garces (recently cut by the Warriors) plays in Phoenix also and speaks Spanish, there's a guy on Seattle (Ruben Wolkowyski from Argentina). So I think there's more guys in the league that can do it."

The approaching play-offs could highlight Madsen's language ability even more. If the Lakers make a strong play-off run like they did last year, Madsen could end up as the only Spanish-speaking player in the finals. Regardless of how the Lakers do, Madsen thinks its important to have Spanish-speaking players for the Spanish-language media to talk to, "I come off the court and people will speak to me in Spanish. I appreciate that. I think the fans appreciate it."


Se Habla NBA? NBA virtually ignores potential fan base
Sacramento CA Bee 25Mar01 S2
By Scott Howard-Cooper: Bee Staff Writer
Few teams make an effort to woo Spanish speakers

Se Habla NBA? Carril, Madsen make a connection with Latinos
Sacramento CA Bee 26Mar01 S2
By Scott Howard-Cooper: Bee Staff Writer


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