Washington Post Publishes Articles on the NFL Extravaganza Controversy

September 5, 2003

Yesterday’s (Thursday, September 4th) edition of The Washington Post published three articles on various aspects of the NFL extravaganza controversy. The Washington Times also published one in the Sports Section. (Click for photos)

The primary one in The Washington Post appeared in the Metro Section. It exposed the Park Service’s manipulation of its own rules — and the English language. Here are some portions:

Ad Rules Relaxed for NFL Bash
Mall Promotions Amount to ‘Sponsor Recognition,’ Park Service Says

By Karlyn Barker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 4, 2003; Page B01

Rules prohibiting commercial marketing on the Mall do not apply to this week’s NFL extravaganza because the promotional aspects constitute “sponsor recognition” and not advertising, National Park Service officials said yesterday.

The decision also allows the National Football League to show tonight’s season opener between the Redskins and the New York Jets, including commercials, on Jumbotron screens that will be set up between Third and 14th streets NW. National Park Service officials had determined last week that only public service announcements could be aired on the Mall.

Permission to broadcast the full game, including the ads, was granted after several days of negotiations among the Park Service, the NFL and WJLA-TV, the local ABC affiliate that will show the game. The final permit for tonight’s event was issued yesterday by the Park Service, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of the Interior, a partner in the program.

Officials at the Park Service concede that the televised concert and game, with commercials, is unprecedented for an agency whose regulations ban commercial uses of the Mall. But they say relaxing the rules is justified by the unique nature of the NFL program.

“This is the first time the Park Service has had a proposal of this magnitude,” said Bill Line, a spokesman for the agency’s national capital region. “This is different from advertising; these are sponsor recognition. . . . The NFL is turning to other sponsors to generate the money necessary to put on this event.”

Vikki Keys, acting superintendent for the Park Service’s Mall area, said she decided to allow the showing of commercials once she realized that it was an “event broadcast from the Mall to the Mall.”

“Once I understood more about what would occur, I determined that it was in keeping with Park Service guidelines and policy,” Keys said…

…Over the weekend, however, the NFL said it had reached an agreement that allowed the broadcast to be shown with essentially the same commercials that will be seen by the television audience. A source close to the negotiations said Park Service public announcements will be mixed in with the regular commercials.

Allowing the Mall and its monuments to be used for commercial purposes has long been a sensitive issue. The decision to embrace the NFL celebration has angered several groups, including some whose weekly protests have been displaced and who are familiar with the many restrictions imposed by the Park Service.

“I think they’re violating their guidelines,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer with Partnership for Civil Justice who has represented protesters planning large demonstrations on the Mall. “To be turning the Mall into a billboard is, I think, what all the people would recognize as a violation of the stewardship of the Park Service.”

Verheyden-Hilliard said that in some past demonstrations, police officers have threatened to arrest protesters who were distributing T-shirts or other material. “We didn’t know they simply needed to get themselves corporate sponsorship by Coors,” she said.

Charles Atherton, secretary of the Commission of Fine Arts, the federal panel that oversees aesthetics in ceremonial Washington, said the NFL event has crossed the line of excessive commercialism. “It’s grown now beyond a reasonable amount of equipment and advertising,”he said. “I would say there’s not a trace of any dignity to that space. It’s just a midway.”

Judy Scott Feldman, chairman of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, said money and influence are taking over the Mall in the absence of an updated master plan for how the core promenade should be used.

“Who’s in charge? The television station and marketing people are apparently making the decisions about how the Mall will be used,”she said, arguing that the Interior Department has a conflict of interest in regulating the event because it is a co-partner with the NFL to promote its initiative on volunteerism in the nation’s parks….

To see the entire article, go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A22855-2003Sep3.html

Another Post article appeared in the Style Section. Some portions:

‘NFL Kickoff Live’ Sponsors Put Some Spin on the Ball
By Reilly Capps

The weather has been ugly. The media have been merciless. The crowds have been thin.

But spokesmen for the NFL and Pepsi stood on a dais at the Ritz-Carlton in Foggy Bottom yesterday and tried to put a pretty face on the “NFL Kickoff Live 2003″on the Mall. They touted the synergy of sports, patriotism and marketing as a success. They trotted out handsome servicemen and servicewomen from across the country. They paraded out really pretty faces, like Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige, who used words like “energy” and “fun.”

“So far it’s been very Super Bowl-like,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy….

…As for the storm of negative press, McCarthy shrugged.

“Any time the NFL does anything, it’s open for criticism,” he said. “It’s expected. But ask the thousands of people who enjoyed the other day on the Mall if they thought it was too commercial. This has been a great experience not only for the NFL but for thousands of people.”

America is a soda-drinking, football-playing, midriff-baring nation, and PR people say that the Mall — the gathering place for this nation, the repository of our spirit of independence, aspiration, opportunity, courage, determination, hard work and perseverance — is perfect for America’s game. This is a good thing for the Mall, McCarthy said…

…”We think that the event itself is done in the right spirit,” she said. “What we’re hearing from the majority of people that we talk to is that Washingtonians are pretty supportive of this.”

The company’s new product, Pepsi Vanilla, has sold above forecasts, she said, and has been given away by the thousands. This week’s event should give the product an extra boost and give Pepsi a victory in the soda wars.

The NFL is preparing for the worst. Just in case an electrical storm closes the concert down, the rehearsal last night was taped and will be aired in case of emergency.

Still, the naysayers pop up at inconvenient times. At yesterday’s news conference when reporters were supposed to be lobbing softball questions to Aretha Franklin about singing the national anthem at tonight’s Redskins-Jets game, and to members of Good Charlotte about their Redskins roots, a reporter asked McCarthy about all the criticism.

He talked about how “there’s been a great balance to provide a free event for the public,” but not before making one thing clear: “I think we’re here to ask other questions.”

Finally, another bit of Post coverage appeared in Steve Vogel’s “Military Matters” column. A portion:

NFL Wants Uniform Look Front and Center at Kickoff Concert on the Mall
By Steve Vogel

Thousands of military service members are invited to attend the National Football League- sponsored concert extravaganza with Aerosmith, Britney Spears and others today on the Mall, but if they want to be in the front row — or anywhere near it — they had better wear their uniforms.

The NFL has asked the Defense Department to get 25,000 uniformed military members and their families to the Mall and has offered them priority viewing for the free concert. The event celebrates the start of the NFL regular season — the game tonight between the Washington Redskins and the New York Jets at FedEx Field.

The last hour of the concert will be broadcast live around the world, and the NFL wants to make sure its salute to America’s military men and women has that photogenic, troops-in-the-field look for those TV shots of the concert audience.

“You’re going to get closer to the front if you’re wearing a uniform,” said Maj. Paul Trapp, a spokesman for Operation Tribute to Freedom, a Pentagon program overseeing the event.

Otherwise, Trapp said, with an audience of service men and women in civilian dress, “you’d have that Kodak moment — with 40 million people watching — and it wouldn’t look like U.S. soldiers were there.”

Military organizers are dropping an initial suggestion on their Web site encouraging troops to wear “desert battle dress uniform,” which might have given the impression that the concert was being held in Tikrit rather than downtown Washington.

“That’s going to change,” Trapp said, adding that senior officers vetoed the suggestion because they “don’t want it to look like a combat operation.”

Another way to get a good spot is to be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One section is designated for 250 national senior military and civilian leaders and their guests…

(c) 2003 The Washington Post Company

This last article appeared in The Washington Times:

LIVE SHOW KICKS OFF NFL YEAR
By Eric Fisher
THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The NFL lacks for very little these days, but subtlety can be counted among its shortcomings…

…The NFL’s arrival to the Mall, however, is not without its ardent critics. The event features widespread signage on the Mall of Pepsi Vanilla, as well as signs and banners of several other NFL corporate sponsors.

Corporate sponsorship has occurred at many other events on the Mall but never to such magnitude, local activists say. Jumbotrons set up on the Mall to show the Redskins-Jets game will have the commercials airing during the ABC broadcast, also a first for the Mall.

“This is just one of a series of events degrading this hallowed space,” said Judy Scott Feldman, chairman of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall. “We’re not against football or gathering together. But this is just a big commercial for the NFL and its sponsors, and it really sets a dangerous precedent in the use of this space. This just brings up the urgent need to have a much broader discussion as to what the true parameters for the use of the Mall ought to be.”

Collins and other NFL officials defended their actions, highlighting the lack of admission charges for any of the events as well as the planned tribute to the military that will involve 25,000 servicemen. The NFL event received permits, approvals and planning assistance from a wide variety of local and federal agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Defense and Interior, the District government and the National Park Service. The NFL also will replace damaged sod on the Mall after tonight’s concert…

Copyright (c) 2003 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

To see the entire article, go to: http://www.washingtontimes.com/sports/20030903-115907-9991r.htm

 

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