Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Anti-Vest? Then Boycott NFL Games!

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Anti-Vest? Then Boycott NFL Games!

Article excerpt

As the NFL season approaches, photographers who cover the games from the sidelines appear more angered about the latest restriction requiring them to wear advertiser-connected vests than about anything in the recent past. League officials, as part of a string of new rules imposed this year regarding outside media coverage, are making sideline still photographers wear red vests in an effort to distinguish them from others who are not permitted to be there. Simple enough, right? Well, it probably would be if it were not for the two small logos placed on the vests promoting Reebok and Canon cameras. NFL officials contend the Reebok logo is there because the shoe company paid for the vests, while the Canon logo, in front, is there as part of a "partnership with the NFL." Partnership is always marketing code for advertisement. To many photogs, and their editors, that partnership is one in which they'd rather not be a partner. They contend the logos amount to advertising, which amounts to conflict of interest. Editors from Philadelphia to Seattle have registered their opposition, while organizations from the American Society of Newspaper Editors to the National Press Photographers Association have told the NFL in no uncertain terms that this is not something that they are accepting lightly.

This past weekend it got worse, with dozens of papers weighing in against the new rules in editorials and columns. Among them was Sacramento Bee Editor Rick Rodriguez, who in a column on Saturday addressed the issue, saying "There always has been an invisible wall between newsrooms and the folks who sell advertising or do marketing. While newsrooms understand that advertising pays the bills, the departments are run independently to ensure that paid advertising doesn't influence the way news is covered. Maintaining that separation is key to journalists' credibility." The Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., joined in on Sunday with an editorial that stated, "We strongly urge the league to rescind this ill-conceived policy, before the start of the season. Photojournalists aren't on the NFL payroll, and they shouldn't be forced to promote the league's sponsors." Fine ethical stances all. However, will any of the opposition really mean anything unless these same journalists take the true stance of an on-field protest? If they are against wearing these vests, then don't wear them. Better yet, don't show up at all.

Since this controversy began within the past two weeks, some murmurs have arisen about taping over the small logos during games, but no organized plan has arisen. And only a few newspapers -- the Chicago Tribune, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, and the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press -- have publicly threatened to decline coverage if the vests and their ads are still required to be worn. In a recent editorial, the Tribune stated it "won't allow its photographers to cover games in vests with logos," adding "If the rule doesn't change, the paper will cover the NFL without visuals." That would be a strong rebuke, given that the paper covers the defending NFC champion Chicago Bears and faces strong competition from its crosstown rival, the Chicago Sun-Times -- not to mention numerous broadcast and online rivals. On Friday, the Star Tribune reported that its managing editor, Scott Gillespie, and Pioneer Press Editor Thomas Fladung co-wrote a letter to the NFL essentially saying they would not follow the rule and might gladly stay home from games if given the choice. …

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