NFL Kickoff Finds Little Support For Photo Vest Boycott

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By: Joe Strupp

With the National Football League season set to kick off tonight in Indianapolis, news photographers appear to be stopping short of an organized boycott against the league’s new requirement that sideline shooters wear vests with advertising logos.

But leaders of the National Press Photographers Association, the most vocal opponent of the new requirement, are advising photographers that they can cover-up the Reebok and Canon logos, and say several have already done so during pre-season games.

“Some have covered it up and we have not heard a real pushback from the NFL,” said Jim Straight, NPPA executive director. “We want people to make their own decisions.”

NFL Spokesman Greg Aiello said he knew of no instances of photographers covering up the logos or refusing to wear vests. “I think it’s a non-issue,” he says.

The dispute stems from a new league requirement that sideline still photographers wear special red vests designating them as credentialed press. The vests include logos for Canon and Reebok, a situation that has raised objections from NPPA and other journalism groups who consider them a conflict of interest.

Despite objections from NPPA, as well as Associated Press Managing Editors and American Society of Newspaper Editor, the NFL has declined to change the restriction.

NPPA officials said that during pre-season games, which ended last weekend, some photographers covered up the ad logos with apparently no backlash.

“There was nothing at all,” Tony Overman, NPPA president and a photographer at The Olympian in Olympia, Wash., said describing the reaction to his covering up the logo at a recent Seattle Seahawks pre-season game. “There were four of us who did it, put tape over the Canon logo and the Reebok logo and they did nothing about it.”

NPPA leaders are asking photographers to make their own decisions about covering up the logos, advising that they make sure to get supervisor approval and still follow security requirements at each game. The organization also is asking photographers to e-mail their experiences at games to the NPPA Web site at www.nppa.org.

Overman says when photographers find they will likely not be reprimanded for covering up the logos, more will do so. He says most have been more concerned with keeping credentialed and doing their jobs.

“When you are on the sideline, advertising on the vests is the least of your concerns. The number one goal is to have access to games and cover what you have to cover,” he says. “When they realize the NFL is going to allow it, I think more people will start to do it as the season goes on.”

But at least two photo editors sending shooters to tonight’s first game between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints in Indianapolis said covering up the logos is not a priority.

“We have decided to just wear them and move forward,” said Mike Fender, director of photography for the Indianapolis Star, which plans to have seven photographers at the game, with four on the sidelines. “I don’t think any of them will [cover up the logos]. They didn?t during pre-season.”

Doug Parker, photo editor at the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, declined to comment on the controversy, but said he would have two photographers at the game. Times-Picayune Managing Editor Peter Kovacs said his staff was not likely to protest the requirement tonight. “We are not sweating over the NFL vests, there are other things to sweat over in New Orleans.”



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