T-Mobile Bounces 'Fave 5' Spots Featuring Charles Barkley

Move Follows Former NBA Star's Arrest for Drunken Driving

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- T-Mobile has pulled its TV spots starring Charles Barkley following the basketball great's drunken-driving arrest on New Year's Eve.

T-Mobile has primarily featured Mr. Barkley in ads promoting its 'Fave 5' program.
T-Mobile has primarily featured Mr. Barkley in ads promoting its 'Fave 5' program.
In a statement, a T-Mobile spokesman noted that the campaign featuring Mr. Barkley has been successful, but "given the recent developments, for the time being, we've replaced TV ads featuring Mr. Barkley with more general-market advertising." The spokesman added: "As he works through his personal matters, we will evaluate where to go from here."

Publicis Groupe's Publicis in the West, Seattle, created the ads.

Mr. Barkley was arrested at 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 31 after running a stop sign in Scottsdale, Ariz. He failed a sobriety test, reportedly with a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit.

Leave of absence
After news of the incident broke, he agreed to take a leave of undetermined length from TNT Sports, where he has been a studio analyst of NBA games since 2000, earning a reputation for blunt, occasionally controversial but often funny commentary.

"When I spoke with Charles, he was apologetic for the events that transpired and it was obvious he understood the significance of this situation," David Levy, president of Turner Sports, said in a statement. "This is an important time for Charles as he deals with the legal and personal issues that confront him. Charles is a valued part of the Turner Sports organization, and we are concerned for his well-being."

T-Mobile has primarily featured Mr. Barkley in ads promoting its "Fave 5" program, in which calls to five designated individuals are free. One long-running storyline in the campaign involved Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade campaigning for a spot in Mr. Barkely's "Five," only to find himself endlessly harassed by Mr. Barkley once he made it.

The campaign has been integrated into TNT's "Inside the NBA" broadcasts featuring Mr. Barkley in the form of basketball-related top-five lists read on air.

Mr. Barkley has also been in the news of late because of gambling issues. In October, he was sued by the Wynn Las Vegas over a $400,000 debt he has since repaid. And in 2006 Mr. Barkley estimated that he had lost about $10 million gambling over the years.

No stranger to controversies during his playing career, either, Mr. Barkley was arrested in 1991 after punching a man in the face at a Milwaukee bar.

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