July 20th, 2007

NFL Edict Makes Photographers See Red

By Teddy Greenstein
Chicago Tribune

They Balk at Vests With Product Logos

Outraged by a new rule that would turn photographers into walking billboards, several prominent newspapers are considering boycotting NFL games this fall.

The edict would require photographers to wear red vests with prominent product logos.

“We cannot abide by this,” said George de Lama, the Tribune’s managing editor for news. “We don’t work for the NFL. Our photographers, just like our writers, are there covering games on behalf of our readers.

“We will talk to our colleagues in Tribune Co. and elsewhere in the industry. I think it’s pretty clear that the NFL will hear a unified position from news organizations on this.”

The New York Times and Houston Chronicle are among the other newspapers that have expressed serious concern over the new rule.

The National Press Photographers Association also is outraged, with John Long, chair of NPPA’s Ethics&Standards Committee, telling News Photographer magazine: “It totally goes against our code of ethics to force photographers to advertise as if they were some sort of NASCAR vehicle. We are independent gatherers of news, storytellers with no agendas. Our integrity comes from objectivity. Do reporters put up with this kind of disrespect from the NFL?”

The NFL, seemingly consumed with money and marketing, has a history of dictating what its on-field personnel can wear during games. Just ask Jim McMahon, who was fined $5,000 for wearing an Adidas headband during a 1985 game.

The NFL even initially refused to allow two head coaches to wear a suit and tie for games because of its tie-ins with Reebok, which supplies the coaches’ apparel.

Last month Commissioner Roger Goodell finally relented by permitting the 49ers’ Mike Nolan and the Jaguars’ Jack Del Rio to adopt the Tom Landry look—but only for their teams’ eight regular-season home games in 2007.

Messages left for the NFL on Thursday were not returned, but the league likely will point out that photographers at the Olympics had to wear vests that featured the word “Kodak.” But those bibs were darker, the logo was smaller and the Olympics are essentially a non-profit event.

At the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, some photographers reportedly wore vests inside-out to protest the inclusion of a “Tostitos” logo.

“Having to wear anything promoting products is not something journalists would choose to do,” Pete Cross, the Palm Beach Post’s assistant managing editor for photography told News Photographer. “We consider it distasteful and unethical.”

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