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Archive for Thursday, July 26, 2007

Money game

There seems to be no end to the commercialization of big-money professional sports.

July 26, 2007

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Maybe National Football League fans should be required to wear assigned clothing designed to form a giant commercial logo in the stands.

It would seem something like this would be the next logical step for a league so focused on making money on virtually every aspect of the game.

The latest example of this trend is an edict handed down by the league this year requiring news photographers covering NFL games to wear red vests featuring logos for Reebok and Canon, two big NFL sponsors. The vests presumably are a good financial deal for the NFL, but they create ethical problems for professional news organizations that go to great lengths to separate their news coverage from advertising influences.

It's one thing for people employed by NFL teams to wear clothing that advertises league sponsors. It's something entirely different, however, to expect working journalists who are not employed by the NFL and are ethically bound to avoid outside influences to become what one editor called "walking billboards" for NFL sponsors.

Forcing photographers to wear the logo of Canon, a maker of photographic equipment, is especially egregious because it implies that these professional photographers endorse Canon equipment. Photographers already had voluntarily agreed to tape over the brand names of Canon competitors in order to satisfy NFL restrictions.

It's unclear how the NFL plans to enforce the vest requirement. When they were told they would have to wear vests with a Tostitos logo in order to cover the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, some photographers wore their vests inside out in protest. Will the NFL actually bar photographers who refuse to display the logos?

NFL officials have to appreciate how important coverage by the news media is to the success of the league. They apparently don't, however, appreciate the fact that they are forcing photographers to compromise their journalistic ethics by requiring them to wear advertising on their clothing.

Either that or they just don't care. Professional sports - and to too great a degree, college sports - have become all about the money. Salaries for coaches, athletes and the many ancillary workers it takes to run professional leagues, along with the billions spent on sports facilities, have made professional sports more about the money than about any healthy spirit of competition.

Taxes are raised to support new arenas, but ticket prices have put attending the games out of reach for most of the taxpayers. The big-money aura of professional sports has tempered many fans' enthusiasm for the games. If the current monetary arms race continues among major college athletic departments, it won't be long before the public becomes just as turned off about Division I NCAA football and basketball.

Professional sports always were designed to make money for someone, but it seems that these days, the game of making money has almost overshadowed the competition on the field.

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