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
What can fans do to stop the lockout? Why
should they bother? Is their voice really relevant?
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,
Who do you believe currently thinks they speak for fans but
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
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