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The Sports Lobbyist

March 14, 2011 7:05 AM

State of Sports Influence - 3/14 Update - MMA,Lockout, Hockey & NJ

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MMA & W.V - MMA notches another state victory by working through a sanctioning bill in West Virginia. This sport continues to lead the way in terms of influence on the state level. They've gone from outlawed in a majority of the country to now being restricted in only a few places - all due to their savvy lobbying.

But - The main prize of NY still eludes them....

NJ Sports Authority - Looks like former Rep. Michael Ferguson will be appointed to the NJ Sports Authority, an appointment made by Governor Christie.

Why It's Good For NJ Sports - Having a former Congressman (and a respected one at that) on the Board of a Committee which has been beleagured by financial woes, puts a respected and serious face on the important revenue that sports brings to NJ.

NFL Lockout - The NFL has officially decertified and moved the battle to federal court making a lockout seem more and more likely.

Sports Influence - Now is the question of whether the antitrust exemption which the NFL receives will have any legs in Congress. Over the years, different elected officials have thrown out the NFL exemption as an example of what could happen if the NFL doesn't play ball, but is it realistic that this fight will end up in Congress? Federal court seems the most likely place where this ends.

Hockey - The Congressional Hockey Challenge seemed to get a lot of press this year. That's a coup for hockey in the sense that having lawmakers play your sport leads to some love with it. The annual Congressional football and baseball games are long-standing institutions in Congress and lead to an appreciation for the respective sports by the powerful. Congressional Soccer needs to get going.....

(image courtesy of wikimedia)


Maury Litwack is a recognized lobbying expert and founder of the advocacy training and education firm - Capitol Plan which publishes the weekly Lobbying Letter and produces the Municipal Influence Summit. Maury served on the staff of two Congressmen where he provided legislative expertise and political strategy. Maury left the Hill to expand the Washington office of Miami-Dade County, the 6th largest county in the country. His analysis of lobbyists, lobbying, celebrity advocacy, and earmarks have appeared in political publications such as The Hill, Daily Caller and FoxNews.com and on the radio in programs such as AOL's Politics Daily and XM/SIRIUS POTUS. His take on ongoing tech advocacy issues have appeared in top technology publications Business Insider -SAI, TechCrunch, and Mashable
January 19, 2011 2:37 PM

Interview with Sports Fans Coalition (NFL Lockout and more)

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The NFL Players Union was on Capitol Hill this week to lobby Congress regarding the lockout. The potential of an NFL lockout has terrified fans as it seems a real possibility that next season could be football-free. One group has been galvanizing the fan voice in a strategic manner to attack the lockout with facts, negotiations, and  a strong voice in Washington and beyond - The Sports Fans Coalition. I spoke with Executive Director Brian Frederick on the lockout and other issues where his group is involved.  

 

This week the NFL Players were on Capitol Hill, what are your thoughts on their having Congress involved? What do you think of the NFL's criticism of this activity saying that ""This deal will be reached at the negotiating table, not in the halls of Congress"

Everyone hopes that Congress doesn't have to get involved in the situation, but the fact that both sides are actively lobbying Congress suggests that this fight will not be over anytime soon. The NFL's criticism of the NFLPA for taking to Capitol Hill represents the height of hypocrisy considering the NFL's own political action committee (NFLPAC) has spent around $2.5 million on lobbying in the last two years. The players aren't spending anywhere close to that kind of money; they're just trying to use their star power. The fans have neither, but they do have numbers. 

 

What can fans do to stop the lockout? Why should they bother? Is their voice really relevant? 

Their voice is absolutely relevant if fans can unite into one collective voice, which they can do by signing the petition at www.SaveNextSeason.com The NFL and the NFLPA are already very concerned about the Sports Fans Coalition and our efforts. If those efforts are backed up by hundreds of thousands of fans, we could seriously force an end to the resolution -- and one that's in the best interest of fans.  

Breakdown the FCC's recent retransmission ruling and how it affects fan viewing. You were an early voice in that discussion - why? 

 The FCC has decided to open a new rulemaking on the issue of retransmission consent because fights between broadcasters and cable/satellite companies are becoming extremely nasty. The biggest example of this was the Fox-Cablevision dispute that caused millions of sports fans in the New York area to miss the first few games of the World Series. We have said from the beginning that both parties in these disputes should negotiate in private but keeps the games on, especially since the fans have paid for the stadiums. Between that and the FCC telling Comcast that as part of its merger it must make sports programming more available to its competitors, we are pleased that the federal government is starting to pay attention to the concerns of sports fans. 

 

Besides the NFL what are some other key sports disputes which you want to influence in the next few years? 

Our concerns with the NFL aren't just limited to the looming lockout. We also want to put an end to the NFL's blackout rule which punishes fans in particularly hard-hit communities who can't afford to go to games but who have had to pay taxes on their team's stadium. This is why we have spent so much time raising the concerns of sports fans with the FCC. The blackout rule is on their books and they have the power to change it. 

 

Also looming on the horizon is a possible NBA lockout. And that fight could be even uglier than the NFL's fight. Unlike the NFL, which has never been more popular, the NBA has serious problems now, including the situation involving the New Orleans Hornets, who are now owned by the league and may relocate or contract. 

 

Finally, we will continue to fight for a college playoff and will work to gain Congressional support of any action in that direction. The NCAA is clearly unable to gain control of its most profitable product and given the inequities that are inherent in the BCS system, Congressional action may be the only hope for change. The vast majority of sports fans everywhere hate the BCS enough to accept Congress' involvement, I believe. 

 

Who do you believe currently thinks they speak for fans but really doesn't?  

Well, clearly the NFLPA and the NFL both feel that their interests represent the best interests of fans. And I believe that they believe that. But there's no way they can objectively assess or speak to fans' true concerns. Only a nonprofit advocacy organization can challenge both sides. In addition, sometimes some sports media tend to believe that they are speaking for the fans, but they don't ever truly challenge the leagues or the owners because they don't to lose access or because they have business relationships with the leagues. This creates a problem for our organization when we depend on the same media to get out the word about the issues affecting fans. Which is why we are so dependent upon people spreading the word about sportsfans.org. When fan interests don't get coverage, it's not because those interests aren't important -- it's because those interests conflict with the interests of the sports-media complex. 



Maury Litwack is a recognized lobbying expert and founder of the  advocacy training and education firm - Capitol Plan where he publishes the weekly lobbying letter - an insider resource read by lobbyists, policy makers, and government relations professionals. 

Maury served on the staff of two Congressmen where he provided legislative expertise and 
political strategy. Maury left the Hill to expand the Washington office  of Miami-Dade County, the 6th largest county in the country. His  analysis of lobbyists, lobbying, celebrity advocacy, and earmarks have 
appeared in political publications such as The Hill, Daily Caller and  FoxNews.com and on the radio in programs such as AOL's Politics Daily  and XM/SIRIUS POTUS. His take on ongoing tech advocacy issues have 
appeared in top technology publications Business Insider -SAI,  
TechCrunch, and Mashable 
January 10, 2011 8:02 AM

NYT Gets It Wrong - No Politics In The Bowl vs. Playoff PAC Fight

Thumbnail image for 800px-Orange_Bowl.jpgThe New York Times wrote an overview today of the group Playoff PAC and their fight with the college bowl system. The Times attempts to create a political fight where there is none.

The title of the story is "Political Heavy Hitters Take on College Bowls." While it is true that those involved in Playoff PAC come from political backgrounds their strategy when fighting the Bowl System is almost entirely watchdog and public relations. The Times makes the mistake by referring to Playoff PAC as a "Washington political action committee" which is true in the literal sense of their name and creation but in the actual swaying of elected officials with donations and influence isn't.  When examining their 2010 political donations through Open Secrets, they have no history of donating to elected officials in 2010, influencing elected officials wasn't what garnered them a majority of their press last year and in this article they admitted  "their priority was completing projects like the I.R.S. complaint."

Playoff PAC has done a very effective job of being a watchdog which highlights IRS discrepancies and other issues with the professional Bowl organizations, but their workload so far doesn't appear to be resolving issues in Washington by supporting candidates or pushing influence.  

Why does it matter?

It matters because there are elected officials and fans who would like to create legislation or deal with this politically but that's not a point so far in this fight. When a sports organization like Playoff PAC's activity is incorrectly labeled it allows for their opponents to disregard them. One bowl spokesman effectively did this is the article saying "They have obviously garnered a lot of attention for their cause, but sometimes it's difficult to tell exactly who they represent. What is their constituency?"
  A powerful statement which resonates with Congress and elected officials who may wish to support Playoff PAC but may also agree that they are unsure who they represent. An elected official will operate because of voter concern, if the voter concern isn't apparent then the elected official is reticent to act.  This becomes more obvious in another Bowl response stating
"All of us taxpayers are forced to deal with those tactics every two years at election time, and I find them distasteful."  Another response which dismisses Playoff PAC for their obvious political shortcomings but doesn't respond to their role as an effective watchdog.

I don't want to take away from Playoff PAC's obvious successes, but this isn't the first time the media has confused the fight and it isn't the first time I've tried to clarify it.  From time to time Congress has introduced legislation which has garnered little support and movement. If and when Playoff PAC or others decide to focus time and energy on the legislative/political fight then it is fair to characterize the feud as such, until then it does the opposite of influencing elected officials by simply confusing the principle players and issues.

Although many in the sports world would love to believe that any and everything can be labeled "political" and thus influence elected officials to action, this fight continues to be a lesson that sports lobbying isn't such a basic exercise. 


(image - wikicommons)

 

Maury Litwack is a recognized lobbying expert and founder of the advocacy training and education firm - Capitol Plan. Maury served on the staff of two Congressmen where he provided legislative expertise and political strategy. Maury left the Hill to expand the Washington office of Miami-Dade County, the 6th largest county in the country. His analysis of lobbyists, lobbying, celebrity advocacy, and earmarks have appeared in political publications such as The Hill, Daily Caller and FoxNews.com and on the radio in programs such as AOL's Politics Daily and XM/SIRIUS POTUS. His take on ongoing tech advocacy issues have appeared in top technology publications Business Insider -SAI, TechCrunch, and Mashable

 

December 28, 2010 5:59 PM

Are The Vikings The Key To Stopping an NFL Lockout?

512px-Metrodome_August_2007.JPGFans looking for a way to express frustration and anger at the potential NFL lockout next season may have found their answer.....if they are based in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Vikings and the NFL have been lobbying the State of Minnesota for a public financing agreement which would help pay the costs of a new stadium. The stadium is estimated to cost between $700 and $900 million and the Vikings are looking for taxpayer help to defray the costs. Why shouldn't they? Numerous other cities have entered into a public financing agreement to keep their team happy. Public financing for new stadiums is part of the territory of being an NFL fan. If you want to keep the team then pay the costs. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the support for public financing isn't favored by the public.

A recent Public Policy Polling study indicated that voters want to keep the team but don't want to pay the costs to keep them in Minnesota. That perspective was universally supported by Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Funny that a rare sign of bipartisan agreement comes in the way of football allegiance or lack thereof. But will fans go beyond the polls and articulate a major NFL fan concern?

Vikings Fans have a unique opportunity to express their dismay at a financing deal beyond budgetary concerns and in specifics as it relates to the lockout. Fans could argue that they are hesitant to part with public funds but could be amenable to a financing deal if it is contingent upon a guarantee that there will be an NFL season. The Vikings will obviously counter that a new stadium will bring jobs and revenue to the city and State, but with no season where are those jobs and revenue?  That's a point the fans could hammer home to their elected officials and the NFL - putting the fans in a powerful negotiating position.


Minnesota has a unique bargaining chip when the NFL and the Vikings come lobbying for public funding. No rational person would support a publicly funded program which doesn't actually exist, which would be the case if Minnesota were to pay for a stadium which houses no Vikings season.

If Vikings fans are successful in such approach, it is an interesting model of anti-NFL lockout pressure which could be replicated in other areas where the NFL seeks similar public dollars.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This is the second in a series of regular sports lobbying analysis to determine if there is a way to stop the lockout through the power of politics, government, and your voice


(image - wikicommons)

 

Maury Litwack is a recognized lobbying expert and founder of the advocacy training and education firm - Capitol Plan. Maury served on the staff of two Congressmen where he provided legislative expertise and political strategy. Maury left the Hill to expand the Washington office of Miami-Dade County, the 6th largest county in the country. His analysis of lobbyists, lobbying, celebrity advocacy, and earmarks have appeared in political publications such as The Hill, Daily Caller and FoxNews.com and on the radio in programs such as AOL's Politics Daily and XM/SIRIUS POTUS. His take on ongoing tech advocacy issues have appeared in top technology publications Business Insider -SAI, TechCrunch, and Mashable

December 23, 2010 1:47 PM

Just in time for the Holidays-NASCAR makes out like bandits but do their fans?

512px-NASCAR_practice.jpgThe Kentucky Speedway is hosting a NASCAR Sprint Cup race this coming July. In order to expand seating for the event the Speedway applied for state tax rebates and received them. This is the second time in the last few weeks that NASCAR owners have made out like bandits by receiving government funding for the sport, something which should have fans wondering how that funding trickles down.

The Kentucky Speedway received from the State of Kentucky rebates worth over $20 million over the next ten years. That funding was approved with the Governor's blessing, a coup for NASCAR and racing on its own - but that's not all they've won of late. The President's tax package, recently signed into law, included a tax provision which would benefit owners of NASCAR tracks with capital projects to the tune of $40 million. The Federal incentive isn't a new thing; it's actually been occurring since 2004 and adjusts the depreciation schedule for tracks to avoid taxation.

NASCAR was obviously pleased with the federal tax incentive - "being able to provide the track owners the opportunity to invest more in their tracks and make them better and safer is important for us and our fans" said a spokesman.

NASCAR owners are smart to lobby on both issues but I have a hard time believing the fans' chief concern when they see their tax dollars being dispersed is safety. I would venture to say that the price of a ticket is the number 1 priority, an issue which doesn't appear to be a string attached to federal funding.

NASCAR owners deserve great applause for their fantastic state and federal lobbying on behalf of the sport, but fans have a right to ask how this funding on the local and federal side translates to their pocketbook.  NASCAR would likely respond that incentives help them create jobs which should be enough for taxpayers, but I think that fans have the right to ask for more. The fans also support local jobs by paying for merchandise, tickets, etc and could make themselves part of the conversation if they chose.

And they will have the chance in the near future.

The Gateway International Raceway in Madison, IL is now looking for a local tax break to help them sell their facilities while the federal tax break that the President just signed is due to expire in 2 years.

Fans should consider gearing up on this issue before the next legislative silly season to determine if it's worth a push for lower tickets or other fan needs, or if its better to remain in neutral on this ongoing issue.


(image - wikicommons)

 

Maury Litwack is a recognized lobbying expert and founder of the
advocacy training and education firm - Capitol Plan. Maury served on the
staff of two Congressmen where he provided legislative expertise and
political strategy. Maury left the Hill to expand the Washington office
of Miami-Dade County, the 6th largest county in the country. His
analysis of lobbyists, lobbying, celebrity advocacy, and earmarks have
appeared in political publications such as The Hill, Daily Caller and
FoxNews.com and on the radio in programs such as AOL's Politics Daily
and XM/SIRIUS POTUS. His take on ongoing tech advocacy issues have
appeared in top technology publications Business Insider -SAI,
TechCrunch, and Mashable
December 19, 2010 8:10 PM

Stopping the NFL Lockout By Talking to your Mayor?

512px-Patriots_41_-_Broncos_7.jpgIt's not news that the possibility of an NFL lockout looms large. The question is what to do about it. This is the first in a series of regular
sports lobbying analysis to determine if there is a way to stop the lockout through the power of politics, government, and your voice ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

This past week, an interesting group of anti-lockout advocates stepped on to the field - state legislators from Massachusetts.
State Representative Marty Walsh and State Senator Brian Joyce were actively
engaged in writing letters to Patriots owner Robert Kraft regarding the lockout.
Their questions and overall lobbying strategy coupled with his response are insightful
as to the question - is there a way to create political pressure to stop the
lockout?

Why Do These Elected Officials Care? - Representative Marty Walsh is involved because he is a ticket holder and
fan. It's unclear why Brian Joyce is involved. What's obvious is that it doesn't
appear they have been swayed by some large constituent body in MA upset about
the lockout and asking them to intervene. On the one hand it is promising that
elected officials would be aware of the lockout and work to stop it on their
own, but it is disappointing that the fan base wasn't the impetus for their actions.
The difference of course is legislative time spent dealing with the matter. For
each elected official, there is likely a dozen other issues they have to deal
with on a weekly basis and the constituencies of those issues likely have a more active voice than the average football fan.

What Was Their Argument? - The argument that the legislators used is interesting. Arguing jobs,
Walsh wrote of past lockouts as "We all
remember the empty stadiums, empty streets, and ill-will wrought by those work
stoppages. Nobody wants to re-live that experience."
This is an argument
which doesn't reflect the sad nature of fans not being able to watch a beloved
sport, but instead puts the burden of jobs on NFL owners. This response seems
to be the result of the NFL Players Union's earlier
letters to politicians across the country warning of devastating job losses if
the lockout occurs. In a letter to NY politicians, the Union
wrote "During one of the worst economies
since the Great Depression, NFL owners are preparing to cancel the 2011 season
and, in the process, devastate
New York businesses and stadium workers who count on football Sundays to make
ends meet."
 The Players Union lobbying
strategy seems to be successful in not necessarily getting universal
legislators to act (this was only a few) but it is successful in giving those that act a
valid argument when discussing the issue with NFL owners in their state.



Did It Work?  "They should lobby the union. We're
negotiating hard" replied Kraft to a reporter's question on this response.   Not exactly a win....

 

Lessons Learned 

1.      Pressure by politicians on those actively involved with the lockout does work. An NFL
owner is rich for a reason and typically those other business interests which make him rich involve other policy issues with local elected officials. An NFL owner wants to be able to
speak to a legislator about issues relating to business interests and not have
to defend an NFL lockout.

2.      The argument is solid. Jobs mean something. Many owners spent their own time
lobbying to have cities pay exorbitant costs with the argument that the money brought in by new jobs and taxes would be a quality return on investment. Legislators are in a
position to flip that argument back on the owners.

3.      Elected officials can't do it alone. It's great these elected officials are involved,
but without the constituency heavily backing up their efforts it becomes easy
for NFL owners in this case or the players union in the future to ignore concerned
elected officials or tell them it isn't as big a deal as they think. Why should
elected officials think differently if they haven't heard from local fans? It's a coup for the lobbying union to have this level of active constituency, but it isn't reflective of every legislator in MA who has fans in his district which would be obviously upset should a lockout occur. Where are those fans? It seems all of them need to speak to their local mayor, senator or legislator to tell them why they don't want a lockout. 


(image - wikicommons)

 

Maury Litwack is a recognized lobbying expert and founder of the
advocacy training and education firm - Capitol Plan. Maury served on the
staff of two Congressmen where he provided legislative expertise and
political strategy. Maury left the Hill to expand the Washington office
of Miami-Dade County, the 6th largest county in the country. His
analysis of lobbyists, lobbying, celebrity advocacy, and earmarks have
appeared in political publications such as The Hill, Daily Caller and
FoxNews.com and on the radio in programs such as AOL's Politics Daily
and XM/SIRIUS POTUS. His take on ongoing tech advocacy issues have
appeared in top technology publications Business Insider -SAI,
TechCrunch, and Mashable
December 15, 2010 8:25 AM

Stanley Cup's Blind Pass on Capitol Hill

450px-StanleyCup.jpgThis week the Stanley Cup took to Capitol Hill where it was shuffled from office to office to be photographed and admired by Members of Congress and their staff. The Stanley Cup was used as part of "Hockey Day on Capitol Hill" in conjunction with the Congressional Hockey Caucus. Hockey and Stanley seem to have missed an opportunity here to really push some sports influence.

The NHL can't simply give away the attention and star power that comes with their greatest trophy and not ask for something in return.  When any form of celebrity ventures to meet with their elected official they typically come with an "ask" relating to an issue or concern. For an elected official to meet with the celebrity, get a picture and the subsequent press coverage the elected official has to listen or buy in to the issue the celebrity is lobbying. So to with sports lobbying, no sports player or organization should give away the attention that comes with their presence or in this case their famous trophy for free.

Contrast this with The American Meat Institute which regularly brings MLB players to their annual hot dog lunch to promote their meat-centric agenda. The likes of Mike Boddicker, Graig Nettles, and Harmon Killebrew are just some of the greats who have helped influence with their star power at what is now an institutional event in Washington. I recall when I was on Capitol Hill what a hot ticket this was which was only reserved for senior staff and people actually dealing with meaty issues (sorry, can't help myself).  Most sports lobbying gets it right but it's unclear what the hockey lobbying strategy was here.

I'm sure Hockey Day was a great success and it raised awareness for how great hockey is but NHL has issues they could be lobbying on. In the past the NHL as an organization has taken to the Hill to work on cable disputes. As for the players, they could be working on the ongoing performance drug issues or could follow their Canadian counterparts and weigh in on the safety regulation issues that involve the sport.

Not the end of the world, but hockey wins no trophies for this lobbying effort.

 

(image - wikicommons)

 

Maury Litwack is a recognized lobbying expert and founder of the advocacy training and education firm - Capitol Plan. Maury served on the staff of two Congressmen where he provided legislative expertise and political strategy. Maury left the Hill to expand the Washington office of Miami-Dade County, the 6th largest county in the country. His analysis of lobbyists, lobbying, celebrity advocacy, and earmarks have appeared in political publications such as The Hill, Daily Caller and FoxNews.com and on the radio in programs such as AOL's Politics Daily and XM/SIRIUS POTUS. His take on ongoing tech advocacy issues have appeared in top technology publications Business Insider -SAI, TechCrunch, and Mashable

 

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