We’re not even two days removed from the tragic helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and people have already found ways to exploit the catastrophe for financial gain. It’s a familiar recipe for anyone mapping the unfortunate intersection of opportunists and famous people dying and seemed to be the case this time around as tabloids rushed to publish graphic photos from the crash scene near Calabasas in Southern California.
The New York Post ran its story with an unabashed headline that read, “Pictures show Kobe Bryant’s helicopter in ball of fire after deadly crash.” But a closer look showed that the photos were credited to “SWNS,” a news media agency that offers people the chance to “get paid fast” by selling content — like photos, even if (because?) they captured images from a death scene where beloved celebrity Kobe Bryant and eight other people, including his daughter and another teenager, were killed.
The man who took the photos chose to remain anonymous and said he had no clue who the victims were. And while it’s a safe bet that he did, it was unclear if he got paid from snapping those shots after he said he saw the crash during a bike ride. However, it is very clear that SWNS and tabloids like the Sun in the UK, the New York Post and any other publication that runs the images have the sole intention of getting clicks, which reliably translates into revenue.
Of course, for better or for worse, that is par for the course in many aspects of mass media. Publications have long paid for exclusive rights to content, regardless of how tasteless it is.
But Nike, Bryant’s longtime sponsor, may have taken that tastelessness to a new level following the death of one of its most high profile representatives. After reports on Monday that Nike made all Kobe Bryant-related gear unavailable for sale on its website, people congratulated the sports apparel company for taking steps to control the billion-dollar resale industry. ESPN’s Nick DePaula reported “company sources confirmed” that “Nike has decided to pull all Kobe-related items from its Nike.com webstore.”
While it is naive to think that Nike won’t ultimately create some kind of commemorative Kobe gear that will bring it more riches, the company was credited in the interim as being proactive in a move that could influence its competitors to do the same in similar situations.
However, renowned sports business analyst Darren Rovell appeared to shut down that notion on Tuesday morning when he tweeted that Nike actually had instead sold out of Kobe-related products, not pulled them from the site.
Complex also reported on Monday that Nike had sole out of all Kobe products. A link to the section of Nike’s website devoted to all-things Kobe now redirects to a webpage selling all Nike products. An inquiry sent to Nike asking about the contradiction of reports was not immediately returned.
In the meantime, some of Bryant’s most popular sneakers were still being sold online for prices that ranged anywhere from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
StockX, an online marketplace that specializes in re-selling exclusive sneakers, told Business Insider it had no plans to prevent prices for Kobe products from being inflated.
“As is the case for any live marketplace, real-life events have ramifications on market performance,” StockX said in a statement on Monday. “Following the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s passing, there was a surge in interest in products related to the basketball legend, including some of his most noted sneaker collaborations. The increased interest is a testament to his impact both on and off the court.”
Capitalism is as American as apple pie, and this is America.