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MADISON SQUARE GARDEN BANS TOBACCO ADS FROM TV SIGHT-LINES
Published April 5, 1995
Madison Square Garden, settling a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department, "agreed not to display cigarette advertising where it can be seen in television broadcasts of sporting events." Justice sued the Garden claiming that displaying tobacco ads in such a way is a violation of the '71 law banning cigarette advertising on TV. The action against the arena, which is owned by ITT, "apparently is the first time the federal government has applied the law in such a way." Justice's lawsuit, and the Garden's "consent decree in which it didn't admit breaking the law," were announced simultaneously. At issue was a large Marlboro sign "directly in front of the scorers' table" during Knicks games. According to the lawsuit, the Marlboro sign appeared in TV broadcasts during 40 Knicks games over the entire '93-94 season, adding up to more than a hour's worth of TV time. In its settlement, the Garden agreed not to display tobacco ads on or adjacent to the playing area or walkways to locker rooms during televised events. MSG President Dave Checketts accused Justice of "grandstanding," contending the arena already had decided to remove the Marlboro sign -- "not because of the threat of government action but to comply" with NBA policy. A Philip Morris spokesperson said that any TV coverage of their Marlboro signage was "incidental." Other arenas/stadiums could come under similar lawsuits. A Marlboro ad at Shea Stadium "has come under fire" because it appears in baseball TV broadcasts; no action has been announced (Wade Lambert, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/5). ABC's Peter Jennings also reported the story (ABC, 4/5).