SBD/Issue 31/Sports & Society

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  • Coalition Seeks To Give Sports Fans A Voice In Washington


    Brian Frederick recently was named Exec Dir of the year-old nonprofit Sports Fans Coalition, and it is now his job to find and organize a "diverse and unwieldy group of dedicated but often disenfranchised people known as American sports fans and turn them into a unified, political power," according to John Branch of the N.Y. TIMES. Since being hired in August as the coalition’s "first full-time employee, Frederick has been in perpetual motion." His message "strikes a populist tone," and he consistently recites the group’s "primary targets: television blackouts (especially at taxpayer-funded stadiums), the Bowl Championship Series and the ballooning cost of attending games."  Dish Network lobbyist David Goodfriend helped start the fan advocacy group, and skeptics were "quick to dismiss it as another Washington front group with a hidden agenda." Fox Networks Group Senior VP/Communications Scott Grogin: "They’re cloaking themselves in the flag of fans, when in fact they’re a house organ for the Dish Network. It just doesn’t pass the smell test." For financing, the coalition "solicits money from corporate donors." It "has received financial support from two companies: Verizon (which operates Fios) and Time Warner Cable." Each "has concerns over access to sports programming on its systems, and together they have contributed as much as $15,000 a month." Goodfriend said that companies "in the satellite industry, including Dish, have not donated 'despite my best efforts.'" The group’s bylaws state that the "agenda is set by its board of directors and the fans." So far, "1,300 fans have signed on" for free to join the coalition. Ralph Nader, who "led an advocacy group in the late 1970s that focused on similar concerns and fizzled as its membership dried up," said, "Fans are notoriously perceptive about how they are being gouged and all that. But it’s very hard to get them together, especially in a dues-centered group." But Sports Fans Coalition co-Founder Brad Blakeman said, "If they think that someone's watching, it'll make a difference. 'You know, the Sports Fans Coalition could cause us a lot of trouble on this. Maybe we should talk with them.' We would welcome that" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/23).

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