Thursday, July 05, 2007

Terrell Owens, The Cold War And How The NFL Limits Reporters' Freedom Of Speech

Like football? The NFL thinks so. In fact, they think you like it so much that they're comfortable setting guidelines for the media on how much NFL-related video they can use on their websites. Forty-five seconds, to be specific. How's that for some Fourth of July cheer? Go, America!

Now that's some gridiron gusto, don't you think?

The NFL has long been draconian over the usage of its footage. That's why you always see the "Property of the NFL" commercial sometime in the third or fourth quarter of the game. But in this case, the NFL wants to move the traffic off sites like ESPN and Sports Illustrated and toward one of the league's 32 team websites.

Notch another one up for frustrated journalists. First Angelina Jolie limits reporters' questions, now the NFL wants to limit how many times you can replay one of T.O.'s verbal attacks.

According to Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "The policy, announced last month with little fanfare, has frustrated journalists, who say it constricts the public's access to information about the nation's most popular spectator sport. A coalition of news organizations has been quietly lobbying the league for months to change the rule."

As Farhi mentions, the NCAA recently generated controversy for booting a reporter out of the press box at a college baseball playoff game for liveblogging the event (Apparently this violates the NCAA's monopoly on live coverage. I beg to differ, since any paying spectator has the ability to do the same.) And here we go 'round the same track again.

So what's this mean, sports fans and journalists alike? Well, that whole limiting the First Amendment thing, I think. After all, if, say, the Chicago Bears tank this season, how likely do you think they will post less-than-favorable coverage of the team? Even Roger Goodell would admit that's just not right.

Exactly. What the NFL doing is the gridiron equivalent of the White House limiting video coverage of the president to And if that were to happen, cries of a dictatorship and Cold War-era propaganda would ensue. But somehow America's most-watched ballgame slipped through undetected. Until now, I guess.

Is the video the NFL's property? Well, not if they didn't take it, in my opinion. Sure, many of the other pro leagues have a ban on game footage, but we're talking about all footage. So if the aformentioned Terrell Owens decides to deck Donovan McNabb in the bread aisle of the supermarket when their teams next meet, reporters won't be able to show it because it's "property" of the NFL.

Last time I checked, the NFL player contracts didn't include signing over your soul. But maybe I missed that.

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