NFL Tells Photog Group: Vests With Ads Will Stay

By: Joe Strupp The National Football League is apparently standing firm in its plan to require sideline photographers to wear vests with ad logos this season, according to the National Press Photographers Association, which has led the opposition to the plan, claiming it represents a conflict for photogs.

NPPA also dismissed the idea of an organized boycott of games, according to NPPA Vice President Jack Zibluk, who said in an e-mail to E&P that ?Our problem with a boycott is that it could play into the hands of the NFL in the long run. Boycotting wouldn't cause a coverage blackout. The only photographers left would be the ones favored by the NFL.?

As for the NFL reaction, NPPA reports that it received a letter from the NFL Friday that said the requirement would not change, while defending the use of the Reebok and Canon logos on the new red vests.

?The NFL says there are no plans to add additional logos to the vests, or to increase the size of the marks, and that they think the Reebok and Canon logos are appropriate because the vests are made by Reebok and because Canon ?has made the commitment to fund the cost of the vest,?? NPPA reported on its Web site after receiving the letter from NFL vice president of public relations Greg Aiello, which added that ?Both logos are directly related to the manufacture of the vest. Given this, it is inaccurate to characterize them as advertising messages sold to NFL sponsors or others.

"If our goal had been media visibility, we would have allowed Canon to display its name in much larger letters on the back of the vests where it could more readily be seen by the television cameras that are located above and behind the photographers," Aiello wrote in the letter, according to NPPA. "Instead, 'Canon' appears in letters only 0.7 inches high, less than a quarter of the size of the NFL shield logo and no larger than the logo of Reebok, and actual manufacturer of the vest."

Aiello also said in the letter, "It has been pointed out both publicly and privately by members of the media that the presence of corporate logos on vests at sporting events is standard in the industry. The size, placement and positioning of the logos on NFL vests is less intrusive than what is considered accepted practice in much of the sports world."

NPPA reports that Aiello then invoked comments sent to the league by Associated Press director of photography Santiago Lyon ?as an example of someone who reviewed and approved the vests.? Aiello writes, "the Associated Press director of photography has reviewed the vest design and concluded publicly that the Canon and Reebok logos are both reasonably sized. He also acknowledged that the presence of such logos on event vests is common at sporting events worldwide.?

But NPPA contends that what Lyons actually told the NFL in a letter was that, "the Canon and Reebok logos, while of some concern, appear reasonably sized and we acknowledge the common practice of sponsorship appearing on event vests, not just at the NFL but at sporting events the world over. We would, however, be very concerned should there be any increase in the size or number of these logos. Our presence at NFL events is to record them as photojournalists and distribute images the world over, not become walking billboards through larger or more numerous sponsorship logos."

After receiving the NFL letter, NPPA Executive Director Jim Straight said, "We reaffirm our dissension on the vest's logos based on our ethical standards, and we hope that our members - with the consultation of their employers - seek out professional and responsible ways to avoid endorsing a corporate product while acting in a journalistic manner."

But, in his e-mail to E&P, Zibluk made clear a boycott would not occur, at least not one organized by his group. ?What we're more likely to suggest is that photographers cover the logos or turn them inside out. We'd recommend checking with their management, or clients if they're freelancers, to make sure they have support.?

The vests, so far, have sparked opposition from the Associated Press Managing Editors, American Society of Newspaper Editors and several other news organizations.


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