Sunday, June 29, 2008

What does one blog about on the middle Sunday?

Wrestling, of course. With Wimbledon on its day off, it's time to tackle other issues. Or rather wrestle with other issues.
Found this interesting story about the group in Oregon, SOW (Save Oregon Wrestling), that attempted to bring some attention to its cause by buying ad time on ESPN and ESPNU. The group, which is suing the school for dropping the program and adding competitive cheer and baseball, bought spots to air during the DI wrestling championships. But ESPN execs turned back the ads saying they don't take ads that contain political advocacy or issue-oriented advertising.
Wow--so many issues here. First, SOW is claiming that Oregon had no reason to drop the program: it costs less than the programs they are adding; the department was in compliance with Title IX (I haven't checked out the reality of this situation, though). And in general they seemed pissed off the the athletic director, a man without a college degree, seemed to make the decision unilaterally.
Sounds like SOW has some legitimate gripes--it does suck being low sport on the totem pole, ask most female athletes about it. And it appears that the university itself has something to answer for by hiring an athletic director with questionable (or no??) credentials.
And SOW is getting it from all sides. This editorialist is right when he says that ESPN is being hypocritical about taking the ads. The station(s) runs advertising all the time that is advocacy or issue-based. And the definition of "political" is up for interrogation. Aren't most things political? Wasn't Nike's ad campaign last fall "The best team you've never heard of" political? Didn't it suggest that women's sports get less coverage? That women's soccer lacks a certain amount of popularity and attention?
But it's actually the Nike factor that I think the writer is missing. Nike gives a lot of money to ESPN in terms of advertising dollars--more than SOW certainly. And rumor is that Nike CEO Phil Knight, who gives a lot of money to Oregon as well, was behind some of this restructuring at Oregon. So basically the wrestlers are learning firsthand how control of intercollegiate athletics is firmly in the hands of large corporations.
I don't know exactly what the ads SOW had planned on running were going to say; and usually I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for wrestlers because they keep blaming the wrong people when their programs get cut, but I do think ESPN punked out by not airing them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for discussing my story. This link will take you to the youtube video of the commercial.

By the way, I'm glad for Middle Sunday as it gave me a chance to sleep in for the first time in a week.