Former NFLPA Exec Dir Ed Garvey Passes Away NFL Optimistic On Expanded Mexico Presence Podcast With SB Committee Chair Ric Campo Nike Uses Davis For ASG Weekend "Equality" Ads Raiders Securing Bank Financing For Vegas Stadium? Most Dolphins Season-Ticket Prices Will Not Change Lions Want To Host Another Super Bowl Redskins Analyst: Is McCloughan Drinking Again? L.A. Chargers Unveil Season-Ticket Prices Texas Gov. Slams NFL Over Bathroom Stance
SUICIDE SQUEEZE? MIDDLE-CLASS FANS LEFT OUT OF PRO SPORTS
Published July 9, 1998
The state of pro sports is examined by Dan McGraw in a U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT cover story under the header "Big League Troubles: Pro sports has a problem. Fans are disgusted. What if they just stopped watching?" Attendance is high, "but there are many signs that the middle class is increasingly disenchanted with the commercialization of [pro] sports. ... Now, fed-up fans may be exacting their revenge. The sports leagues have long viewed them as a bottomless money pit, but there are signs that fans are close to being tapped out." That "could spell major-league trouble not just" for sports but also for TV nets that pay huge rights fees (U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, 7/13). SKEWED DEMOS? McGraw writes pro sports "is becoming so 'gentrified' that only upper-income people can afford to go to the games, and these fans ... tend not to be as die-hard in their support as their middle- and lower-income counterparts." Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist: "The middle-income and lower-income fans are being priced out of the game. It threatens the mass character of sport, and over time there is a gradual loss of interest, which hurts TV ratings and licensing deals." On the marketing side, Coca-Cola recently reduced its sponsorship package with the NFL and shoe companies like Nike and Reebok have reduced their roster of player endorsers. The Bonham Group President Dean Bonham: "Corporate America is seeing the sports franchise as less valuable." Bonham said that pro sports are increasingly offering only the affluent audience to advertisers, instead of several different demographics: "When you only offer that one group, (the sports leagues') options for sponsorship are more restrictive" (U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, 7/13 issue). BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING: With sports costs higher than ever, the "pass-through" of those costs to consumers "is getting the attention of Washington." Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said recently that he would favor looking into the sports antitrust issue: "This abuse of people, taxpayers, cities -- like we have seen with football and with baseball -- is wrong, just wrong. And they've got to answer to somebody." Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has sponsored the Give Fans a Chance Act, "which would require the sports leagues to give local communities six months to come up with a competing bid to keep a team if the team decided to relocate." The bill now has 24 co-sponsors and is in the House Judiciary Committee. McGraw concludes, "The fans remain underdogs in this contest, but they may have all the momentum" (U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, 7/13 issue). BAD TO WORSE? In Toronto, Craig Daniels: "There is so much wrong with professional sports, and it is so determined to get worse. ... [T]he world of pro sport seems hell-bent on undercutting its worth, devaluing what it means, and we seem too ready to help it along" (TORONTO SUN, 7/9).